Nate Parker apologizes for his response to the suicide of his accuser.
As he issued his comeback with the debut of his American Skin film at the Venice Film Festival, Nate Parker took the opportunity to address the controversy surrounding his response to a resurfaced college rape case that marred his 2016 Birth of A Nation film.
“Three years ago I was pretty tone deaf to the realities of certain situations that were happening in the climate. And I’ve had a lot of time to think about that, and I’ve learned a lot from it,” Parker said alongside collaborator Spike Lee. “And being tone deaf, there were a lot of people that were hurt in my response, in the way I approached things. I apologize to those people.”
It was in 2016 that an interview published by Variety tainted public perception of Parker, resulting in less than favorable numbers for his film. At the time, he was pressed on the subject of the 2012 suicide of the woman who accused him and his best friend and Birth of a Nation co-writer, Jean Celestin, of rape in 1999. While Celestin was found guilty of the charges, Parker was acquitted.
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“Seventeen years ago, I experienced a very painful moment in my life," Parker said in the 2016 interview. "It resulted in it being litigated. I was cleared of it. That’s that.”
His response and others like it across various mediums--including an Anderson Cooper sit-down--arrived just months before the box office premiere of Birth Of Nation, which a year before acquired a record $17.5 million distribution deal with Fox Searchlight. It pulled in just over $16 million at theaters and lost out on the awards run it was expected to make.
“I’d like to piggyback on my brother Nate,” added Spike Lee at the Venice Film Festival as he applauded Parker's work on American Skin. “I know it was troubled times—we had not spoken in a while—and Nate called me up, he said, ‘Spike I’ve got a film, I want to show it to you, I’ll come to New York’…So Nate came to New York and screened it for me, and this film affected me…there hasn’t been a film that’s affected me this deeply in a while. And I said, ‘Nate, if I could help you, tell me what to do.’ And Nate and I also had a private conversation because I had to see where his head was too, because it was no joke what he had to go through. It was a man-to-man, a black man-a black man, brother-to-brother, friend-to-friend talk. There’s an expression, it was ‘100,’ meaning legit. All the way ‘100.’ And I said, 'let’s go. I’m in'.”