In a deal Variety is reporting as the “richest” in the history of the Sundance Film Festival, The Birth of a Nation has been purchased by Fox Searchlight for $17.5 million. The film, written and directed by Nate Parker (star of 2014's underseen but excellent Beyond the Lights), tells the story of Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion, and received near unanimous praise after its Monday premiere.

After a lengthy bidding war (there’s always at least one of those during Sundance), Fox Searchlight beat out offers from The Weinstein Company, Sony, and Netflix—whose $20M offer would have presumably allowed the film to debut on their streaming service.

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The film, which shares a title with the notoriously racist silent film by D.W. Griffith, has been described by critics as “a biographical drama steeped equally in grace and horror...that grapples fearlessly with the intense spiritual convictions that drove Turner to do what he had previously considered unthinkable.”

As Deadline and others reported, the movie “had audience members crying in their seats and jumping to their feet in a prolonged standing ovation at the film’s conclusion.”


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Image via the Sundance Institute.