Nate Parker, director of the Sundance hit “The Birth of a Nation,” has been shrouded in controversy since a 1999 rape case involving him and Jean McGianni Celestin, who shares credit with Parker for the film’s story, resurfaced. Parker and Celestin were charged with raping a young woman in 1999 while attending Pennsylvania State University; Parker was acquitted of all charges and Celestin was convicted but then had his case overturned on appeal. It was later discovered that the accuser committed suicide four years ago at the age of 30.
Amidst the backlash and controversy, Parker’s provocative poster for the film, featuring Parker as slave revolt leader Nat Turner with an American flag around his neck, has been altered by conservative street artist Sabo into a rape allegation. The Photoshopped poster remains the same, except the name of the film has been replaced by the word, “Rapist?” According to The Hollywood Reporter, the artwork was posted in several locations around West Los Angeles, including outside the Fox lot. See the picture below, courtesy of the artist himself.
I LOVE THAT I FUCKED NATE PARKER’S DAY UP. – SABO pic.twitter.com/eCcxrQG8p9
— unsavoryagents (@unsavoryagents) August 17, 2016
“I was very offended when I first saw the unedited, original poster,” Sabo tells The Hollywood Reporter. “What it tells young, influential blacks is that their country is out to hang them, that they don’t stand a chance so why try?” He goes further, saying that he normally “wouldn’t hit on a subject like this,” but he “hate[s] everything about this poster.” “With the country as divided as it is,” Sabo continues. “I can only imagine how many people are going to lose their lives after this movie comes out. I can only imagine how many white people are going to get beat up just for being white.”
Sabo describes himself as an “UNSAVORYAGENT,” and that his aim as an artist “is to be as dirty, ground level, and mean as any Liberal artist out there,” and to use “their tactics, their methods, appeal to their audience, the young, urban, street urchins with a message they never hear in a style they own.”
Before Sabo’s art emerged to the public, Parker made a statement on his Facebook page regarding his accuser’s suicide, saying that he was “filled with profound sorrow” at hearing the news, and that while he maintains his “innocence that the encounter was unambiguously consensual,” he looks back on that time “as a teenager and can say without hesitation that [he] should have used more wisdom.”
Meanwhile, The Daily Beast has posted an in-depth report of the case, which includes crucial details about the entire event in question, including the accuser’s own testimony, transcripts of a recorded phone call between the accuser and Parker, an account of the trial, and more.
“The Birth of a Nation” is set to be released on October 7th.