SEATTLE – Based on the true story of a slave rebellion in 1831 Virginia, The Birth of a Nation is a powerful and important film, mired in controversy.

It’s the passion project of Nate Parker, who wrote, directed, produced, and stars in the lead role of Nat Turner.

"What do you consider yourself more of, at heart? An actor, a writer, or a director?" asked reporter Kim Holcomb

"Director,” Parker said quickly. "I just feel like directing, and the leadership I feel when I'm directing, and being able to inspire people around a common goal, it's exhilarating to me."

His leadership skills helped convinced a well-known cast and experienced crew to work on a shoestring budget and film the sweeping period piece in less than a month.

It was an intense experience that inevitably had the actors examining their own lives.

"For me, one of the most powerfully haunting images in the film is the little girl who comes skipping out of the house with a rope in her hand, and then you see it's tied around the neck of a slave girl, and they're both smiling, they're both laughing, because that's just life,” said Armie Hammer. “And I have a daughter and oh my god, what am I teaching this child now that's ‘just life,’ that soon we will think, this was crazy too?"

The movie isn't all based in turmoil. There are also moving love stories between a mother and her son, a husband and his wife - universal themes of devotion and family.

“We know as human beings, we can't live in darkness always, we find light, we find joy. That's what we have to do in order to survive,” said actress Aja Naomi King.

King delivers a stunning, Oscar-worthy performance.

But the movie faces an uphill battle at the box office, because of a controversy surrounding it's creator.

In college, Nate Parker was accused and acquitted of raping a fellow student. Since the story came to light a few weeks ago, he's come under fire for refusing to apologize.

Actress Gabrielle Union - a rape survivor in real life - has been vocal about her own struggle with Parker's past.

“I have to say, in the last month it's been very uncomfortable but very necessary,” she said. "I do myself and every survivor and every person who has gone through it or will go through it a disservice in staying quiet, and I just choose to not do that."

She also hopes audiences will still choose to see the movie.

The Birth of a Nation is rated R and opens tomorrow.