Set against the antebellum South, The Birth of a Nation follows Nat Turner (Nate Parker), a literate slave preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer), accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to suppress the supposed unruly slaves of multiple southern plantations for profit. As he witnesses countless atrocities by white slave owning southerners – against himself and his fellow slaves – Nat gathers trusted followers believing that God has selected him as his chosen instrument of freedom and orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.
The Birth of a Nation is a 2016 American period drama film based on the story of Nat Turner, the enslaved man who led a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831. Co-written, co-produced and directed by Nate Parker (in his directorial debut), the film stars Parker as Turner, with Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Penelope Ann Miller and Gabrielle Union in supporting roles. Parker also petitioned financiers to invest in the film, ultimately getting an $8.5 million production budget, and started filming in May 2015 in Georgia.
The film premiered in competition at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2016. Fox Searchlight Pictures bought worldwide rights to the film in a $17.5 million deal, the largest deal at the film festival to date. At the end of the festival, the film won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Competition and was highly praised for its directing, acting, soundtrack and cinematography. The film was theatrically released in the United States on October 7, 2016 by Fox Searchlight Pictures and grossed $16 million.