David Oyelowo will soon be seen starring in “Sweet Thunder”, an upcoming big-screen biopic about legendary boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, and he was promoting the film Wednesday at TIFF.
The film was directed by Nate Parker, whose history at TIFF is somewhat fraught given that the last time he was at the Toronto film fest to promote “Birth of a Nation” in 2016, Oscar buzz for the film turned to controversy when rape allegations made in 1999 against Parker and the film’s co-writer, Jean McGianni Celestin, resurfaced. While Parker was acquitted and Celestin’s conviction was overturned on appeal (their accuser took her own life in 2012), the controversy succeeded in overshadowing the movie.
Speaking with Variety’s Virtual TIFF Studio, Oyelowo defended Parker.
“I have a pretty good discernment when it comes to good people. He is a good person beyond his fallibility, beyond the mistakes he made. And I believe in redemption. I believe in forgiveness and he is someone I have been around enough to know that in my opinion he is worthy of that,” said Oyelowo.
“He made mistakes in the middle of that whole controversy. He lacked a certain contrition that he now has as a human being. I believe that the man that is going to re-emerge when he does come back into the public consciousness is going to be someone who people are going to see his regret, see his compassion, see his maturation, see his growth, see his deserving of redemption,” he added.
“As it says in the Bible, all have sinned and fallen short — all of us. Therefore, let us have the compassion to recognize that and see where there are people who are truly contrite, truly desirous to be better going forward. What I would say about Nate is his handling of it when it happened was wrong and it lacked the compassion that needed to be seen,” he continued.
“I believe that with time the tide will turn and me working with him is part of an offering to him of my desire to see him redeemed,” he said.