"Birth of a Nation" the biopic recapping the 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner, opened on Friday, October 7th with much anticipation and intense scrutiny. The film set records back in January, when Fox Searchlight paid a whopping record breaking $17.5M for distribution rights. Fox Searchlight made a major bet on Nate Parker and this film. Let's get the full picture so that we understand the depth of this bet that Fox Searchlight took on Nate...
According the Vanity Fair:
Fox Searchlight has a long history with Sundance acquisitions that, like any other company’s, is a bit checkered; they paid $10 million for at the 2006 festival and went on to turn that film into a summer box office hit and a best picture Oscar nominee. They also paid $12 million last year, at the time a Sundance record, for , the most buzzed-about film of that festival that went on to anemic box office and virtually no awards season presence. Making films is hard; knowing how much to pay for films, and then putting them in front of audiences, is sometimes even harder.So Fox Searchlight really needed a win here! I can recall reading reports in January shortly after the acquisition where people talked about the emotional time it was watching the movie at Sundance. The film received a standing ovation at the end. People couldn't stop talking about it. There was a bidding war that involved Netflix, Sony, and the Weinstein Company. Everyone wanted this film. However, Fox Searchlight won and they were banking on this film to deliver them not only financial returns, but major accolades.
Okay so what went wrong?
NATE FUCKING PARKER!
We all know the story by now so no need to rehash. In 1999 while a student at Penn State, Nate Parker was accused of rape and later acquitted. So of course leading up to the release of the film, media gets wind of this prior case and rightfully makes a discussion out of it. Nate then decides to play an arrogant victim.
Now let's be clear on something..... this was not some orchestrated attempt to take a famous black man down, as Nate Parker has been trying to portray. Nate Parker was a "B-List" actor at best. The biggest memorable roles he had were in "The Great Debaters" and "Beyond the Lights." Upon writing this I looked up his filmoraphy and saw that he was also in "Red Tails," "NonStop," and "The Secret Life of the Bees." However, not many people remember those roles because he wasn't memorable. So clearly "Birth of a Nation" is Nate's biggest project to date. The reason no one talked about Nate's rape case prior to now is because Nate wasn't in the spotlight in the manner he is today. I can't recall how this story came to light. My memory is slightly jogged towards possibly a family member of the victim coming forward. Either way, everyone knows that with additional fame and recognition come scrutiny.
Okay so what do you do when you are a "B-List" actor who writes, directs and self funds a major important historical film, breaks the bidding record at a major film festival and has serious skeletons in your closet??????
Opps my bad...here is what you don't do....
For me this interview was the last straw.
Every single interview that Nate did he was aggressive and highly contentious when the subject was brought up. Oh and he thought it was appropriate to not apologize and led a "I'm not apologizing" tour, while promoting the film.
So as a young woman I'm supposed to go and spend my hard earned money to see a film created by an arrogant rapist who lacks empathy or common sense?
I can read a book on Nat Turner!
Nate Parker and his friend clearly raped that young woman. She was intoxicated and could not give consent. Now I am very aware that just like today, in 1999 there was a disconnect in terms of what constituted rape. Like a majority of people, Nate seems to think it's only rape when the big bad scary man comes with a weapon and assaults a woman in a violent manner. That's not the case. As the father of a daughter I would think that Nate could see that and actually look back at the incident and see that he was wrong and actually did rape that young woman, despite a court telling him he didn't.
Listen, I understand that he is not and probably shouldn't publicly say "hey, now that I look back, I did rape her." Nate should have approached this whole ordeal with a great deal of empathy and humility. Even better, he should have gotten in front of it. Instead he chose to be a complete asshole.
This whole thing pisses me off, but really grinds my nerves is that some people are looking to not assign the blame to Nate. This major and totally preventable catastrophe is no one's fault but Nate Parker - plain and simple!