The Birth of a Nation, an historical drama about Nat Turner’s slave rebellion, was the breakout release at Sundance back in January. The film’s galvanic spirit of radical black pride heated up Park City and landed director Nate Parker the biggest distribution deal in the festival’s history, with Fox Searchlight ponying up $17.5 million for the rights.
The huge expenditure was instantly vindicated when the buzzy film won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at the end of the festival. Now, Fox has begun its campaign to ensure that Birth of a Nation, due October 7th, becomes the lightning-rod awards contender.
Back in April, the first teaser set a suitably tense mood for a violent upheaval of the social order in the Antebellum south, but the new trailer embedded above strikes a note of hope. Parker does it all as producer, director, writer, and star, portraying Turner with a battered humanity and faith in the Lord that can’t be extinguished. It’s through his Bible study that he recognizes the fundamental wrongness of slavery. He stirs his brothers and sisters to take up arms in the name of God.
A combination of painterly period design and visceral action, Parker’s debut film has put him on the map and earned a spot as one of the most exciting releases left on the calendar for 2016. While we’re all disappointed that the ad executives editing these trailers still won’t spring for the rights to Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar’s “Freedom,” a pairing just waiting to happen, this clip still looks like the arrival of a bold new talent in American cinema.