By Darlene Donloe
Earlier this year Nate Parker was the big man on campus.
His film, The Birth of A Nation, was so well received at the Sundance Film Festival, that a bidding war ensued, which was eventually won by Fox Searchlight.
The film, set for release Friday, Oct. 7, tells the story of Nat Turner, who led a slave uprising.
In the film Parker is exceptional as Nat Turner, the strong-willed slave and preacher who led a 48-hour slave rebellion.
The drama, which is exceptional, is being overshadowed by Turner’s personal drama, which dates back 17-years ago when Turner was accused and then acquitted of gang-raping a woman when he was a college student.
Parker recently addressed the issue, or rather side-stepped the issue on Good Morning America (GMA) and 60 Minutes. The result didn’t really do him any good. The back and forth with Robin Roberts on GMA was very uncomfortable and painful to watch. It was clear Parker did not want to talk about the allegations. He dodged and tried to deflect and had no intention of saying he was sorry for the events that took place in 1999.
Parker, who was acquitted, does not feel he should have to apologize. It actually makes sense. If, in his mind, he didn’t do anything wrong, why would he apologize?
Reportedly, he told Cooper “I was falsely accused…I went to court…I was vindicated. I feel terrible that this woman isn’t here…her family had to deal with that, but as I sit here, an apology is – no.”
Turner participated in a press conference for the film at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
Following is an excerpt of the questions and answers Nate Parker (NP) gave during the press conference.
The first question involved his response to those filmgoers who said they wouldn’t see Parker's Nat Turner slave-revolt film because of the resurfaced allegations stemming from the 1999 incident at Penn State. He replied by turning attention to his 10 fellow actors sitting on the podium with him.
NP: I would say: 'You know I've addressed it; I'm sure in future forums I will address it more. There's no one person who makes a film.’ he said to reporters, continuing a weekend posture in which the filmmaker has sought to turn attention to some degree away from himself. There are so many people away from their families, they spent time in post until this very moment…Everyone who sweat and bled for their work should be rewarded. I would encourage everyone to remember, personal life aside, I’m just one person. There was never one person [on the film]. We did our best to create atmosphere where everybody felt included. He wound down with, “Nat Turner has healing qualities and progresses us all forward. The legacy of Nat Turner is important to us — he healed all of us.”
Parker was asked if he feels there are Hollywood double standards in judging people for past sins. He declined to offer much elaboration on either.
NP: This is a forum for the film, for the other people sitting on this stage. It's not mine, Parker said to the first question. I don't want to hijack this for my personal life. I just want to honor this film and move it forward. He then thanked TIFF for including the film in its slate.
A follow-up question yielded a very cautious response.
NP: I don't pretend to be an expert on reactions of anyone. I'm a filmmaker. I feel like this is my calling. (Parker said to the question about double standards). I'm going to stay in that lane. When we’re talking about injustice we all have jobs to do. (referring to the journalists in the room as well as the filmmakers on stage), adding that he thought both jobs would “progress us forward as a nation, progress us forward as a planet and put forth an effort that can raise all ships."
As has been reported repeatedly, Parker was asked by Cara Buckley, a New York Times reporter, if he should apologize.
NP: I’ve addressed it a few times. I’m sure I’ll address it in different forums. This is a forum for the film, this is a forum for the other people who are sitting on this stage. It’s not mine, I don’t own it, it does not belong to me. I definitely don’t want to hijack this with my personal life. I do want to make sure we’re honoring this film and these people in front of you. I would just say I’ve addressed it, and I’m sure in future forums I will address it more. There were more than 400 people involved in this project. I would just encourage everyone to remember that, personal life aside, I’m just one person.
The Birth Of A Nation is directed by and stars Nate Parker, Gabrielle Union, Colman Domingo, Aunjanue Ellis, Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Penelope Ann Miller, Roger Guenveur Smith, Jackie Earle Haley and Mark Boone Junior.