It may seem nuts to start handicapping next year’s Oscars race before this year’s ceremony has even aired, but Sundance has proven that it’s now a launching pad for awards season contenders.
Not only did the historical epic receive the most prolonged standing ovation at this year’s Sundance, it also landed the biggest deal in festival history, after it sold for $17.5 million to Fox Searchlight, the same distributor that earned “12 Years A Slave” a best picture statue at the Oscars two years ago.
In addition to the top prize, Parker will be in the running for best director, best actor and best script nominations, and the Academy could single out two of his actors as nominees too — Aja Naomi King (for best supporting actress for her portrait of Turner’s wife Cherry) and Armie Hammer (for best supporting actor as a conflicted plantation owner).
Unless Academy voters have lost their minds, “The Birth of a Nation” is a guarantee that Oscars 2017 won’t continue the embarrassing trend of only nominating white people in the acting categories. The picture swept the grand jury prize and the audience award for dramatic feature at the Sundance awards on Saturday night, the first of many awards the film is likely to receive.
“The Birth of a Nation,” writer-director-star Nate Parker’s stirring drama about the life of Nat Turner and the slave rebellion he led in antebellum Virginia, won the grand jury prize and the audience award for American dramatic features at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday night.
The film’s double-fisted victory sealed its standing as the sensation of the festival’s 2016 edition, following its record-shattering $17.5 million acquisition earlier in the week by Fox Searchlight.
In the midst of this year’s Oscar controversy, the slave-rebellion epic “The Birth of a Nation” seems poised to prove that if you want to win awards nominations for your film, make a great one.
Writing, directing, producing and starring as Nat Turner, the slave who led a short-lived uprising in 1831 Virginia, Nate Parker picked up the Sundance Film Festival and carried it on his shoulders with “The Birth of a Nation,” a potent and stirring drama about a second American Revolution.
Fox Searchlight is closing a $17.5 million deal to acquire worldwide rights to “The Birth of a Nation,” a drama about the 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner, that had an electrifying premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
The Weinstein Company, Netflix, Paramount, and Sony were among the companies making offers on the picture, Variety has learned. Bidding lasted through the night, with one company, believed to be Netflix, offering $20 million for the picture. The deal is the richest in Sundance history.
The film was written and directed by Nate Parker, who also stars as Turner and invested his own money in the production. Parker is best known for his work in “The Great Debaters” and “Beyond the Lights.” The response to the picture was seismic and the Oscar buzz erupted as soon as the lights went up following the picture’s debut at the Eccles Theatre.
On Monday afternoon, Nate Parker was greeted with a standing ovation when he took the stage at the Eccles theater at the Sundance Film Festival to introduce his film, the slave rebellion drama The Birth of a Nation. Two hours later, as the credits began to roll, again the audience rose to applaud in a standing ovation that lasted through the credits, in what was arguably one of the longest standing Os in recent festival memory.
Principal photography has wrapped in Vancouver on dark comedy “Phil,” Greg Kinnear’s directorial debut, starring Kinnear and Emily Mortimer. Kinnear directed from a script by Stephen Mazur (“Liar, Liar”).
The actor portrays a dentist whose life is falling apart as he struggles to find his path after a patient — who seemed to have it all — unexpectedly commits suicide.
Cast includes Jay Duplass (“Transparent”), Robert Forster (“Jackie Brown”), Taylor Schilling (“Orange is the New Black”), Bradley Whitford and Luke Wilson.
The film is a Bron Studios production, in association with Single Cell Pictures, Imperative Entertainment and CW Media Finance.
Producers are Aaron L. Gilbert and Sandy Stern with Bradley Thomas. Executive producers are Jason Cloth, Andy Pollack and Ron McLeod. WME is representing the film.
Ricky Gervais’ “Special Correspondents” will premiere on Netflix on April 29, the streaming service announced on Wednesday. The film — a remake of the French comedy of the same name — centers on a radio journalist whose response to a career crisis is to fake front-line war reports from the comforts of a restaurant in Queens.
The comic look at journalistic malfeasance is the latest move in Netflix’s push to enter the film world by leveraging its millions of subscribers into backing original productions.
The service has already released the acclaimed child soldiers drama “Beasts of No Nation” and the (let’s be generous) less critically well-received “The Ridiculous 6,” a comic western from Adam Sandler. Future projects include “War Machine” with Brad Pitt, “Jadotville” with Jamie Dornan and “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday,” which brings Paul Reubens back into the Playhouse fold.
In addition to Gervais, best known for skewering Hollywood A-listers as the host of the Golden Globes and for creating “The Office,” the film stars Eric Bana (“Lone Survivor”), Vera Farmiga (“Up in the Air”), Kelly Macdonald (“Boardwalk Empire”), Kevin Pollak (“The Usual Suspects”) and America Ferrera (“Ugly Betty”). The film is a co-production between Bron Studios and Unanimous Entertainment.
The producers are Gervais, Chris Coen, Aaron L. Gilbert, Manuel Munz and Larry Sanitsky. Jason Cloth and Ron McLeod are executive producers. Gervais wrote and directed the “Special Correspondents.”
The Sundance Film Festival announced the initial lineup for its U.S. Competition category earlier today, and along with the announcement comes the first images for said films. As it is every year, the slate is incredibly strong.
While the filmmakers themselves may not yet be household names, this is the same category where Creed director Ryan Coogler, Selma director Ava DuVernay, and Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow got their big boosts.
We jest about the “Sundance-to-Blockbuster” route, but in all earnestness, next month we could be seeing the initial works from some of the biggest filmmakers to come.
The Birth of a Nation / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Nate Parker) — Set against the antebellum South, this story follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner, accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. After witnessing countless atrocities against fellow slaves, Nat devises a plan to lead his people to freedom.
Cast: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Gabrielle Union, Mark Boone Jr. World Premiere.
The Independent Spirit Awards are an annual award given in the name of independent film, featuring plenty of those little indies which deserve the honor and recognition that, this year, they might not receive at the Oscars. We love featuring these because there’s always some gems to find. This is an excellent year of nominees, featuring a wide range of some of the best filmmaking of the year.
Cary Joji Fukunaga – Beasts of No Nation
Michael Gioulakis – It Follows Ed Lachman
Carol Reed Morano – Meadowland
Joshua James Richards – Songs My Brothers Taught Me
Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions has acquired U.S. rights and most international territories to romance “The Driftless Area,” starring Anton Yelchin and Zooey Deschanel, Variety has learned.
The film is directed by Zachary Sluser from a script he co-wrote with Tom Drury, based on Drury’s 2006 novel of the same name. Producers are Keith Kjarval through his Unified Pictures and Aaron L. Gilbert through Bron Studios in association with CW Media Finance.
The film also stars John Hawkes, Alia Shawkat, Aubrey Plaza, Frank Langella and Ciaran Hinds. Deschanel stars as an enigmatic woman while Yelchin portrays a bartender who returns to his hometown after the death of his parents. When he falls in love with her, he is unwittingly pitted against a volatile criminal played by Hawkes.