Following the recent controversy surrounding Nate Parker and the resurfacing of sexual assault allegation against the filmmaker, the American Film Institute cancelled their Friday screening of “The Birth of a Nation” and Parker’s Q&A.
AFI dean Jan Schuette made the announcement to students on late Tuesday, writing that they would also schedule a discussion to talk about these issues together.
“I have been the recipient of many different passionate points of view about the screening, and I believe it is essential that we discuss these issues together — messenger and message, gender, race and more — before we see the film,” he wrote. “Next week, we will be scheduling a special moderated discussion so we may explore these issues together as artists and audience.”
Instead, AFI will screen Paramount’s sequel “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” and Fox has agreed to host a screening of “Birth of a Nation” later in the year.
This would have been Parker’s first public appearance since the story of the 1999 rape case became known. The filmmaker and “Birth of a Nation” co-writer Jean Celestin were accused of raping a woman while they attended Penn State in 1999. In 2001, both were brought to trial on charges of rape and sexual assault, with Parker cleared of all charges and Celestin serving time in prison for sexual assault. Last week Parker learned that the accuser had committed suicide in 2012, penning a letter on his Facebook page and writing about how “devastated” and “filled with profound sorrow” he was to learn of her passing.
The controversy has led to many looking down on the Sundance sensation, which Fox Searchlight bought for a record-breaking $17.5 million. The drama won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the film festival and was eyed as an Oscar contender. The film has multiple screenings lined up for the Toronto International Film Festival, but now Deadline reports that Fox Searchlight has pulled the film’s press conference. TIFF was also going to be a major step on the film’s Oscar campaign, but this morning’s TIFF schedule confirmed the movie and its filmmaker will not be having a press conference.
“The Birth Of A Nation” is still scheduled to open October 7.