The first public screening of Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation was held Saturday night at the Toronto Film Festival, and though the movie has been incredibly well-received by its audiences, Parker is only just beginning what promises to be a tough journey through the press junkets.
The film was itself was given an “extended standing ovation,” CBC interviewer Eli Glasner said as he introduced a segment preceding his interview with Parker, adding that there was no red carpet ahead of the screening, nor were there any protesters.
It’s unclear how far into his interview Glasner had gotten before he asked Parker the interview killing question: Whether Fox Searchlight changed its strategy due to the media attention brought by Parker’s recently-resurfaced 1999 rape charge, for which he was acquitted in 2001. The question had barely left Glasner’s lips before an off-screen handler put the kibosh on the interview, saying, “Thanks Eli, we gotta wrap up.”
Glasner said he was allotted five minutes to speak to Parker, and that a wrap signal is typically given when time is running out. “I was nowhere near that, but I think when they saw the direction that I was going, and I’m still kind of pushing to get answers on what he has to say about his past and whether he’s changed, that was it,” he said.
Asked at a different press event why he hasn’t apologized publicly for his actions, Parker responded that
“This is a forum for the film, for the other people sitting here on this stage. It’s not mine at the moment, it doesn’t belong to me. I really don’t want to hijack this forum. I want to make sure that we promoting this film.”
In this instance, discussion had centered on the film for nearly an hour before a moderator asked Parker to address potential viewers’ apprehensions about seeing the movie in light of recent controversy. Per the Guardian:
“I won’t try to speak for everyone,” he said, seated next to most of his primary cast, including Gabrielle Union, Armie Hammer, Colman Domingo and Aunjanue Ellis. “I would say: I’ve addressed. It. The reality is there one one person that makes a film. Over 400 people were involved in the making this film. I would just encourage everyone to remember that personal life aside, I’m just one person. The way we ran our set, there was no hierarchy. We did our best to create the type of atmosphere where people felt included.”
Gabrielle Union, one of the film’s stars and a rape survivor herself, recently penned an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, writing that though she has “found [herself] in a state of stomach-churning confusion,”
“the film is an opportunity to inform and educate so that these situations cease to occur on college campuses, in dorm rooms, in fraternities, in apartments or anywhere else young people get together to socialize.”