The American Film Insitute had scheduled a screening of Nate Parker’s Sundance hit Birth of a Nation for Friday, but Parker’s rape charge from 1999 continues to disrupt what the general public previously considered a much simpler story about a Hollywood triumph.
AFI’s dean, Jan Schuette, appears to have been buffeted on all sides by people’s views on Parker, his culpability in the death of his accuser, and the intersection of race in his case and the success of his film. Deadline reports that Schuette has canceled the screening and shared his statement on the delights of being a recipient of so many opinions:
“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.”
Schuette notes that Fox has agreed to arrange a screening of Birth of a Nation for later in the year, though he doesn’t specify if Parker will be available for a Q&A as was originally planned. The film was intended as an opening week special event for second-year students, and has been replaced by Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, which is yet another franchise where Tom Cruise stars as someone who kicks everybody’s ass.
Scheutte is not alone in struggling with how to talk about Nate Parker, and his reportedly incredible film, which seemed to be on track for Oscar season after getting bought for $17.5 million. In their article on films to watch this fall, Vulture noted:
There’s big awards buzz on this — and also buzz of a very different kind, about the reemergence of the fact that in college, Parker and his Birth co-writer, Jean Celestin, were accused of sexual assault by a young woman who has since committed suicide. This will be one hell of a conversation.
Sure. That’s one way to put it.