Actor-turned-director Nate Parker was the biggest breakout at the Sundance Film Festival back in January, where the unsparing Birth of a Nation, his debut feature behind the camera, landed an unprecedented $17.5 million deal with Fox. The dramatized account of the 1831 slave rebellion that Nat Turner (played by Parker, who also wrote the screenplay) led through Southampton County, Virginia, ultimately taking the lives of somewhere between 55 and 65 people. The film’s Sundance debut drew raves from the attending critics, and the record-setting acquisition made a star out of Parker. Now, according to a report from Variety, he’s parlayed this newfound celebrity into a noble cause.
Beginning in the upcoming fall semester, Nate Parker will launch a new film school at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas near the Louisiana border. With the newly established program, Parker hopes to communicate to students a top-to-bottom view of filmmaking, spanning everything from the technical nuts and bolts of lighting, sound and cinematography to more academic pursuits, with classes critically analyzing the “cultural component and history” of film.
“You control the moving picture, you control the masses. So, really getting them rallied around the idea of reclaiming the narrative of America, specifically through the eyes of people of color,” Parker said during a new interview with The Root. (Wiley is what’s colloquially known as a H.B.C.U., or a Historically Black College or University.) The maiden voyage of this new program will take 30 students aboard, providing a valuable influx of black voices to a disproportionately white-dominated profession. Parker himself is a testament to the power of a good education, having graduated with his degree from University of Oklahoma and gone on to such impressive success. I mean, he did get his degree in computer programming, but still. Go to school, kids!