Nate Parker, in the lead-up to this week’s release of “The Birth of a Nation,” has spoken once again about the 1999 rape trial that has increasingly become the focus of his efforts to promote his slave-revolt drama. In an interview with Steve Harvey today, the writer/director/star vacillated between contrition and anger, reserving the latter for the media: “‘What are these journalists trying to do?” he asked. “Do they care about anyone involved? Do they care about what we’ve been talking about? I think it’s been a tragedy on so many levels.”
Elsewhere he was more penitent, saying that, “Even outside of this tragic situation, I have so much empathy and even regret for that night. The ideas of what I thought made a man aren’t the same as the ideas in my mind right now.” Parker was accused of raping a fellow student while attending Penn State in 1999; he was acquitted, while his “Birth of a Nation” co-writer Jean Celestin was found guilty but later had his conviction overturned on appeal. This information was publicly available but not widely known when Parker’s movie premiered to great acclaim at Sundance this January; that changed as details of the case emerged this summer, including the fact that Parker’s unnamed accuser took her own life in 2012.
“It shocked my soul,” he said to Harvey about the woman’s suicide. “To hear that news — I wasn’t prepared for it. I thought maybe she’d pop up once [the accusations] resurfaced. When this happened, and I spoke to it, it was insensitive.”
Parker also said that he’s spoken to his family about the situation and asked them, “‘Is there any way I can use my platform to raise awareness about this, because guess what? The media ain’t covering that.”