“Southern trees bear strange fruit. Blood on the leaves and blood at the root…” The hauntingly beautiful lyrics to Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit, creates an ominous mood at the beginning of The Birth of a Nation’s official trailer. The two minute running time of the teaser displays many disturbing images and invokes many emotions as we travel back to the most troubling time in American history. Nat Turner is infamous for leading a bloody and brutal “slave” rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia. In the trailer, we see African-Americans treated as pets, being intimidated, and dihumanized. We see Nat Turner being chosen by a slavemaster to keep the “slaves” in line. In the clips, he seems to comply, but in reality he’s planning something big behind the scenes.
As the trailer progresses, we can sense the quiet rage brewing inside of Turner and near the end, that rage is ready to explode. Nate Parker has spent the past several years creating this project as a writer, producer, and director in addition to playing Turner himself. With this film, Parker has proven himself to be not just a fine actor but a true auteur. In an age where many are discussing the lack of diversity in film, Parker has taken the proactive route to getting his vision to the screen. The Birth of a Nation world premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and promptly won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award. After turning down a robust offer from Netflix, Fox Searchlight Pictures bought the worldwide rights to distribute the film for $17.5 million dollars, making it the biggest deal in Sundance history. The film is now poised for an October release date and a strong Oscar push. The first trailer is a strong and emotional presentation, giving us a taste of what we can expect in October.