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'Birth Of A Nation' Sweeps Sundance Grand Jury & Audience Awards

UPDATE, 7:45 PM writethru: It’s a double win for The Birth Of A Nation tonight at the Sundance Film Festival awards. First the film written, directed, produced by and starring Nate Parker won the U.S Dramatic Audience Award, and now it has scored the prestigious U.S. Dramatic Jury Award.

nate parker sundance double win“Sundance is like a great summer camp experience,” said a clearly humbled Parker onstage. “This has been like the greatest moment of my career — it just means so much.”

This is the fourth year in a row that the same film has won both the U.S. Audience and Jury awards. Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale, which was renamed Fruitvale Station upon wide release, won both awards in 2013, Whiplash won in 2014, and Me And Earl And The Dying Girl won last year.

The Birth Of A Nation sealed its Sundance Film Festival tonight with the double wins. Parker’s passion project about Nat Turner’s 19th century slave uprising saw an emotional and acclaimed debut screening January 25 and the very next morning scored a record-breaking $17.5 million rights deal with Fox Searchlight.

sundance film festival 2016 logo“Thank you Lord, thank you Sundance,” Parker said after taking the stage tonight to accept the Audience Award with the film’s producers Jason Michael Berman, Aaron Gilbert, Brenda Gilbert and EP Ryan Ahrens. “I’ve seen first-hand that people are open to the idea of change, and the fact that this is happening means everything to me.

“Thank you to everyone who voted for the film,” he also said to big applause. “I share this with you.”

The  U.S. Dramatic Jury this year included Lena Dunham, Jon Hamm, casting director Avy Kaufman, music supervisor Randall Poster, and Black List founder Franklin Leonard.

Made for under $10 million with the likes of San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker coming in as an executive produce, the visceral Nation depicts the horror of the system of slavery and the 48-hour revolt Turner instigated in 1831 in Virginia. And yes, in this time of the diversity and #OscarsSoWhite discussion in Hollywood, if you feel you recognize the title, it’s because Parker re-appropriated the name of the infamous 1915 film by D.W. Griffith that helped reinvigorate the KKK in America.

Birth Of A NationWith Parker as Turner and Armie Hammer, Gabrielle Union, Penelope Ann Miller, Aja Naomi King and Chike Okonkwo co-starring, the film saw multiple standing ovations and lots of tears at its packed Eccles Theatre premiere. Within minutes, potential buyers were working the phones in the lobby and an all-night bidding war broke out among Searchlight, Netflix, Sony Pictures, the Weinstein Company, Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios and others.

fox_searchlight__120814012904__130612015925In the end, it was Searchlight that Parker, his producers and WME went with. “Ultimately with Searchlight I felt a connection and a humanity on just a human level, not to say that it wasn’t there with the others, but there was a relationship and a synergy with respect to what impact we wanted it have on the world – a global approach,” Parker told me just hours after the deal was made.

A global approach for a pic that now has its Sundance double in hand.

    1. What, that Byron Allen colluded with WME to drive up the price by exploiting the Oscar controversy and papering the audience?

      Or that no one ever lost money, and quite a few gained tons of it, betting on the tendency of liberals, in thrall to their white guilt, to congratulate themselves for their progressive awareness by bestowing hosannahs on minority artists regardless of the relative merits of their work?

      1. I have not seen this movie, but what “white guilt” are you taking about?

        Nat Turner and his men murdered Caucasian men, women, and children while they slept in their beds.

        What is surprising is the fact that many more slaves did not kill their slave masters and their families while they slept at night.

      2. Or that people (of all creeds and colors) enthralled by the status quo, and ignorant to the pervasiveness of white supremacist ideals, pepper comment boards with hate filled ignorance, without seeing the film themselves and judging the art on the merit of what it makes them feel about the human spirit or the importance of this story in the annals of American history.

        If only white liberals wanted freedom for enslaved people, you can bet Africans in this country would be enslaved for another thousand years. It took the self determination of the Nat Turners, the Denmark Vessey’s the Fredrick Douglass’,the Martin Luther King’s and now the Nate Parker’s to turn public consciousness toward injustice.

        Arguing for ignorance is the same as wielding the bullwhip or locking the shackles. And everyone is damaged in the process.

        Why don’t you wait to watch the film before passing on ignorance and hate, and wrapping it up in words and ‘culture’. How can you know the merits of a piece of art, minority lead or otherwise, if your knee jerk reaction is condemn it as latter day affirmative action, even before you’ve experienced Mr. Parker as a man or his work as a piece of art?

        That this is your forum says enough. That you’re losing this battle is enough.

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