After news of a 1999 rape case involving “The Birth Of A Nation” director and star Nate Parker surfaced last month, the filmmaker is now facing the press for the first time while in Toronto.
While promoting “Birth Of A Nation” at a press conference during the Toronto International Film Festival, Parker dodged a question from a The New York Times reporter who asked why the director hasn’t apologized to the family of alleged victim – who committed suicide in 2012 – and whether he would like to do so publicly, now.
“This is a forum for the film. For the other people sitting here on this stage. It’s not mine, it doesn’t belong to me. I don’t want to hijack this with my personal life,” he told the gathered media.
After banning video cameras from the “The Birth Of A Nation” red carpet premiere, Parker and the cast including Armie Hammer and Gabrielle Union faced journalists at the press conference, where a question of the rape allegations came at 23 minutes into the conference. Parker was accused of sexually assaulting a woman while he was at Penn State University and subsequently acquitted in 2001. Parker was questioned during the 90 minute press conference on what he would say to people who refuse to see his film based on the allegations against him.
“I would say, you know I’ve addressed it, I’m sure in future forums I’ll address it more,” Parker said. “There is no one person that makes a film. Over 400 people made this film. We were gone for almost 15 weeks. I would encourage everyone to remember that I’m just one person and the way we ran our set, there was no hierarchy. Many ideas made it to screen that weren’t my own.”
In the film, Parker plays Nat Turner, a slave who orchestrated a massive uprising in the South in 1831. For Parker, it’s a story about healing.
“The legacy of Nat Turner does have healing powers. Everyone who has sweat and bled and cried for this film should be rewarded. Many people who kept going above and beyond. There were people who were running with sandbags and they weren’t part of the crew. It’s important to recognize that no one perks does anything important on their own,” he said.
“This isn’t the Nate Parker story. This is the Nat Turner story,” co-star Penelope Ann Miller added. It was a sentiment echoed by her fellow castmember Gabrielle Union who earlier penned an opinion piece about the allegations surrounding Parker and her own experience with rape.
“We are not creating a movie, we’re creating a movement,” said Union. “That movement is inclusive. It includes people who fight back against sexual violence. Any issue you have that is addressing an oppressive institution, this movie is for you too. A lot of heated conversation is the only way to have evolution. Nat Turner was rooted in a place of faith that helped to subjugate and oppress his people. But once he knew better, he did better. We implore you to join with us to create change. … If you are a decent human being who wants to take part in a film, I hope you don’t sit us out.”