sundance film festival, birth of a nation, the birth of a nation, oscars 2017, 2017 oscarsThe 2016 Oscars haven't even happened yet, but based on buzz coming from the Sundance Film Festival, the 2017 Oscars may already have a frontrunner.

"The Birth of a Nation" won big at the annual film festival celebrating independent cinema, claiming both the audience prize and grand jury prize for feature films. The drama tells the true story of Nat Turner, who led a slave revolt in 1831, and was sold for a headline-grabbing sum of $17.5 million to Fox Searchlight, making history as the largest deal in Sundance history.

Sundance has plenty of past success launching Oscar contenders, including recent Best Picture nominees "Brooklyn," "Boyhood," "Whiplash," "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Winter's Bone," and "Precious." And according to Variety, it will be hard for the Academy to ignore Nate Parker, who wrote, directed, starred in, and produced the acclaimed flick, ensuring that #OscarsSoWhite will be a thing of the past in 2017.

Of course, Sundance accolades don't automatically equal Oscar glory. Just look at last year's audience and grand jury prize champion, "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl," for proof: That movie failed to earn any Oscar nods, and was ignored throughout the rest of awards season as well.

Still, "Birth" has the benefit of being a true story -- always Academy catnip -- and has the distribution power of Fox Searchlight behind it (the company also launched recent Best Picture winner "12 Years a Slave"). And with the Academy's recent pledge to diversify, it will be hard to ignore "Birth," even with the 2017 Oscars still so far away. Stay tuned.

[via: Variety]

Photo credit: Elliot Davis, courtesy Sundance Film Festival