The talk of this year’s Sundance Film Festival now has its most extensive preview yet: Fox Searchlight today released the first full trailer for The Birth of a Nation, showing off the film that sparked a bidding war for worldwide rights in January. Ultimately, the period drama went for a festival record $17.5 million.
Written and directed by its star, Nate Parker, The Birth of a Nation centers on slaves living in the antebellum south. Parker plays Nat Turner, a black preacher who is tasked with using religion to subdue slaves. However, his duty is complicated when he sees how horribly many slaves are treated, and he ends up leading a rebellion instead.
The terrible conditions of slave life are on display in the trailer, from their being denied education to being on the receiving end of their masters’ whips. Turner’s dilemma is clear as well — considering that he’s preacher, how can he encourage others to submit themselves to their owners? He and fellow slaves decide to fight. Andra Day’s song Rise Up adds to the already moving scenes.
The film is based on a story Parker wrote with Jean McGianni Celestin about Turner, a historical figure whom Parker had learned about in a college African-American studies course, as he previously revealed to The Hollywood Reporter. The actor was so passionate about the project that he invested $100,000 of his own money in it, as well as went looking for outside financing. Those efforts appear to have paid off, and come awards season, that may be even more true.
In addition to Parker, the film’s cast includes Aja Naomi King, Armie Hammer, Jackie Earle Haley, Penelope Ann Miller, Gabrielle Union, and more.
The Birth of a Nation is scheduled to open in theaters on October 7.