Fox Searchlight has released the trailer for the highly-anticipated Nate Parker vehicle, The Birth of a Nation, which set a record at the Sundance Film Festival when it was sold for $17.5 million.
Nina Simone sings “Strange Fruit” in the opening of the trailer which is always an apt if on-the-nose choice for a film about slavery. The Birth of a Nation tells the story of Nat Turner, a slave in Virginia who led a black rebellion that killed almost 50 white people. Hundreds of slaves and free blacks were murdered by white mobs and militia and Turner was eventually captured and executed.
Turner, who learned to read and write, had a deep religious conviction was considered to be a prophet of sorts. Supposedly, he was ordained by God to lead the uprising.
The film, which won the grand jury prize at Sundance, also stars How to Get Away With Murder’s Aja Naomi King, Gabrielle Union and Armie Hammer.
From the trailer, The Birth of a Nation looks just as powerful and bleak as the reviews out of Sundance claimed. Still, my thoughts have not changed. As I’ve said, I will absolutely be supporting The Birth of a Nation. Still, the trailer has solidified what I’ve always believed, which is that seeing black pain onscreen is all but mandatory for a black-led film to earn the praises of the larger Hollywood community.
The Birth of a Nation seems destined for Oscar glory come next year when the hoards of white voters of the Academy will likely heap on adoration for the film while continuing not to put black people in any of their other movies.
Still, the story of Nat Turner is an important one and one that I’m sure most Americans know little about. The film looks gorgeous and incredibly well-acted and my deepest hope is that its success will lead to more opportunities for Nate Parker and the talented, beautifully brown-skinned Aja Naomi King.
The Birth of a Nation will be released in October of this year.