"The Birth of a Nation," a movie about the 1831 slave rebellion in Virginia led by Nat Turner, is being bought by Fox Searchlight for $17.5 million after it premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival, according to multiple reports Tuesday. The sale price would be the highest ever for a Sundance acquisition.
Among the companies bidding for the film were the Weinstein Company, Netflix, Paramount and Sony, reported Variety. The deal is still being finalized but has closed a bidding war that saw Netflix propose $20 million, along with Sony and Weinstein offering in "the mid-eight figures," Deadline reported, citing sources. The most expensive Sundance acquisition to date was "Little Miss Sunshine," which went for $10.5 million in 2006.
"The Birth of a Nation" was written and directed by Nate Parker, best known for his work in 2014's musical drama "Beyond the Lights." He spent seven years working on the film, which earned rave reviews at the festival, and calls it his "passion project," according to the Verge. Parker was so committed to the project he invested his own money into the movie, which earned a standing ovation following its premiere Monday.
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"I made this film for one reason – in the hope of creating change agents," Parker said during a question and answer session, according to USA Today. "You can watch this film and see there are systems that were in place that were corrupt and corrupted people. And the legacy of that still lives with us."
The title appears to be intentionally ironic and defiant. It is identical to the classic 1915 epic by D.W. Griffith about the Civil War and Reconstruction in the South. One of the most famous movies of all time, it was also blatantly racist and celebrated the Ku Klux Klan.
Netflix, which offered the highest price for the film but still struck out, has found success elsewhere at Sundance, spending $5 million for the rights to "Tallulah," starring Allison Janney and Ellen Page, and nearly $7 million for "The Fundamentals of Caring," starring Paul Rudd and Selena Gomez.