Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nate Parker Still Shrouded in Controversy as 'The Birth of a Nation' Debut Nears

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nate Parker Still Shrouded in Controversy as 'The Birth of a Nation' Debut Nears

Article excerpt

Debut of controversial 'Birth of a Nation' nears

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TORONTO - The critically acclaimed slave-rebellion drama "The Birth of a Nation" arrives in theatres on Friday facing uncertain box-office prospects as a cloud of controversy shrouding filmmaker Nate Parker shows no signs of diminishing.

Parker continues to face questions about a 17-year-old rape allegation. He was acquitted in the 1999 rape case, which took place when he and co-writer Jean Celestin were students at Penn State University. Celestin was initially found guilty of sexual assault, but the conviction was later overturned when the accuser declined to testify for a retrial. The accuser killed herself in 2012.

During a recent interview on CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes," Parker said he was "falsely accused" and declined to make any apology. In the interview, Anderson Cooper pressed Parker on whether he did something morally wrong.

"As a Christian man ... just being in that situation, yeah, sure,'' said Parker.

"I am 36 years old right now ... my faith is very important to me ... so looking back through that lens ... it's not the lens I had when I was 19 years old.''

The accuser's sibling, Sharon Loeffler, published a column in the trade paper Variety blasting Parker and Celestin for their role in her sister's death and for including a fictional rape scene in their film.

"Obviously, it's a very complicated issue, and further complicated by the content of 'Birth of a Nation' in such an important moment right now for the Black Lives Matter movement, and the culture in the U.S. about racial injustice," said Shannon Walsh, assistant professor in the department of theatre and film at the University of British Columbia.

"At the same time, I feel like we're at a period where impunity -- whether it be for the police killing unarmed black men in the streets -- or impunity around sexual violence has kind of reached a point of a lot of intolerance. …

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