Sundance 2016: "The Birth of a Nation" stuns audience

One of Sundance's buzziest movies started as a passion project for a successful actor who left his steady career to pursue something different.

Nate Parker, who was in "Beyond the Lights" and "Red Tails," told viewers that his newest film, "The Birth of a Nation," was a project that took seven years to get onscreen.

The film received a standing ovation at Sundance Film Festival, reports the AP, and Parker told the audience what it took for him to write, direct, star in and produce the film.

"I've poured everything that I am into making it," he said. "I made this film for one reason, with hope of creating change agents, that people could watch this film and be affected."

"The Birth of a Nation" centers on slave rebellion leader Nat Turner, who taught himself to read and became a preacher. Turner, played by Parker, returned profits to his owner as he traveled through the state to deliver sermons to slaves, but his trips made him realize the injustice of slavery, leading him to spearhead a violent rebellion that wiped out 60 slave owners. The film's violence is set against the rural scenery of the American south. The movie also stars Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Penelope Ann Miller and Gabrielle Union.

Parker told viewers that he wanted to create "a healing mechanism for America" and that the issue of slavery in the American south is still relevant today.

"We have to look at slavery and the layered system that it was, because then it will be a lot easier to accept the fact that the remnants or legacy of it could be affecting us now," he said. "Slavery was an injury that was inflicted upon people of color in our country ... We're built on sand in this industry. We just are. And if we don't give it attention, we're going to have these issues, this racist infrastructure that we're going to have to deal with from generation to generation."

In a talk with the Hollywood Reporter, Gabrielle Union added why she believes that this is "perfect timing" for the film.

"The world desperately needs it," she said. "When you can look at a 12-year-old boy shot in less than two seconds and not see that child's humanity and his worth, this movie is desperately needed."

The film is seeking distribution at the festival.

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