Fox Searchlight Pictures buys Sundance film for $17.5 million

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IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR CHASE SAPPHIRE PREFERRED - Gabrielle Union from "The Birth of a Nation" is all smiles at the Indiewire Photo Studio at Chase Sapphire on Main, during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on Monday, Jan. 25, 2016, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Jack Dempsey/Invision for Chase Sapphire Preferred/AP Images)
Gabrielle Union from “The Birth of a Nation” appears during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on Monday, Jan. 25, 2016, in Park City, Utah. Union’s film was bought by Fox Searchlight Pictures for a reported $17.5 million. (Associated Press)

Fox Searchlight Pictures won a bidding war at the Sundance Film Festival for “The Birth of a Nation,” paying a record-setting $17.5 million for the film’s worldwide distribution rights.

The studio announced the deal Tuesday after the film premiered to a standing ovation a day earlier.

It tells the true story of Nat Turner, a slave who taught himself to read and became a preacher before ultimately leading a deadly rebellion that wiped out 60 slave owners.

Fox Searchlight did not disclose the amount of its winning bid, reported to be $17.5 million. Past high-priced titles such as 2013’s “The Way, Way Back” and 2006’s “Little Miss Sunshine” topped out in the $10-12 million range.

Writer, director, producer and star Nate Parker spent seven years making the film he described as a passion project he hopes will serve as a “healing mechanism for America.”

Fox Searchlight says it will release “The Birth of a Nation” later this year.

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