Sundance Film Festival attendees this year bore rapturous witness to The Birth of a Nation, which took home both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award. Now it's bound for wide release on October 7, and the first trailer's a vivid example of why the date's worth circling on your calendar.
The clip showcases the type of breathtaking cinematography and unsentimentalized period-piece authenticity that characterized 12 Years a Slave, which won three Oscars in 2014, including Best Picture. You'll have a hard time shaking the image of a little black girl frolicking with a little white girl holding a leash-like noose loosely looped around the former's neck. Such haunting usage of Nina Simone's "Strange Fruit," as well.
Prolific actor Nate Parker (Red Tails, Non-Stop, The Secret Life of Bees) directed, wrote, produced and stars as Nat Turner, who spearheaded an unprecedented slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831. It's Parker's first feature-length script and directorial gig. The official description is as follows:
"Set against the antebellum South, The Birth of a Nation follows Nat Turner (Nate Parker), a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer), accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities—against himself and his fellow slaves—Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom."
The Birth of a Nation also features Gabrielle Union, Aunjanue Ellis, Aja Naomi King, Colman Domingo, Jackie Earle Haley and Armie Hammer. The title is a reclamation of D.W. Griffith's pro–Ku Klux Klan film from 1915, a seminal, perpetually studied piece of film history.