‘The Birth of a Nation’ Trailer: Meet Next Year’s Oscar Frontrunner
There’s a quote, apparently apocryphal, attributed to President Woodrow Wilson about D.W. Griffith’s silent epic, The Birth of a Nation. "It is like writing history with lightning,” Wilson allegedly said of the film, the first ever screened at the White House. For all of its technical achievements, Griffith’s 1915 movie was horrifically racist, and depicted “heroic” members of the Ku Klux Klan saving Southerners from blacks (actually white actors in blackface).
Even if the quote was invented by some overzealous marketer, it’s taken on a life of its own, and still gets attached to Griffith’s film to this day. I wonder, though, if someone will reuse that line to describe the new Birth of a Nation, which isn’t a remake of Griffith’s film so much as a belated and angry response. It was written and directed by and stars Nate Parker as Nat Turner, who famously led a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831. Parker essentially put his career on hold for several years to make this dream project, bringing Turner’s story to the screen in grand and dramatic fashion. It was the movie of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, where it won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, and got scooped up by Fox Searchlight (the distributor of two of the last three Best Picture winners) for a whopping (and record-breaking) $17.5 million.
Parker’s film also stars Armie Hammer, Gabrielle Union, Penelope Ann Miller, and Jackie Early Haley. The reviews out of Sundance were ecstatic, and the movie was instantly pegged as an Oscar frontrunner for next year; no wonder Fox Searchlight is releasing it on October 7, right in the heart of awards season. Whether it wins or loses the big prize, no one will talk about “the birth of a nation” the same way ever again.