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Though Nat Turner led the most successful slave revolt in American history back in 1831, The Birth of a Nation‘s director-writer-lead actor Nate Parker felt it was timely for today.
“You say to yourself, ‘How will I use my art to address the injustices in my life?’ Nat Turner is a hero to me. I feel like he was someone that used the means that he had to face injustice,” Parker told The Hollywood Reporter of his long-gestating passion project. “I felt like this was something I could contribute to the conversation.”
He continued: “There is an injury that we’re still tethered to, because there’s been no honest confrontation about it. We do a good job of detailing things that happen abroad historically, but when it comes to the things that have happened here, there have been so many things that have been sanitized that we don’t know the truth from the lies.”
The film’s Gabrielle Union agreed. “When you can look at a 12-year-old boy shot in less than two seconds [a reference to Tamir Rice] and not see that child’s humanity or his worth, this movie is desperately needed,” said the actress.
Alongside Aja Naomi King and Jackie Earle Haley at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival — where the film sold for $17.5 million to Fox Searchlight, a Sundance sales record — Armie Hammer recalled Parker’s impressive professionalism on the shoot’s first day, despite the fact that it was his directorial debut. “It was like watching a guy who had directed 50 movies,” said the actor.
“He knew everybody’s name and thanked everybody every day,” echoed actress Penelope Ann Miller. “It was just a wonderful environment to be in.”
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