Nate Parker’s directorial film debut, the Savannah-filmed The Birth of a Nation, has set a record-breaking $17.5 million deal at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.
The Non-Stop star directed, wrote, and stars in the historical drama which filmed in Savannah, GA, and after receiving rave reviews following a world premiere on Monday, bosses at Hollywood’s top film studios began a fierce bidding war for the world rights.
According to Variety, executives at Paramount, Sony, Netflix and The Weinstein Company bid throughout the night, but bosses at Fox Searchlight eventually scored the winning offer and are closing in on a $17.5 million deal, making the deal the biggest in Sundance history.
It surpasses the previous record-holder, Little Miss Sunshine, which was also bought by Fox Searchlight executives for $10.5 million in 2006.
The Birth of a Nation, which received a standing ovation throughout the closing credits following the premiere, chronicles the story of former slave Nat Turner, who led a liberation movement in 1831 to free African-Americans in Virginia, resulting in a violent retaliation from white slave owners.
The movie is a passion project for Parker, who made a promise to himself in 2013 that he would not act again until he could play the American revolutionary on the big screen. With the recent controversy over the noticeable absence of black nominees at this year’s 2016 Oscars, paired with the rising racial tensions in American over the past couple of years, Parker told the crowd at Sundance that the film’s themes still resonate with audiences nearly 200 years later.
Following the premiere, Parker said, “I made this movie for one reason only, creating change agents. 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… These people thought they were doing good when they were doing bad. In 2016, that echoes.”
The Birth of a Nation also stars Armie Hammer, Jackie Earle Haley, Gabrielle Union, Penelope Ann Miller, and Aja Naomi King.