*A screening of “The Birth of a Nation” and a Q&A with writer-director-star Nate Parker that was supposed to take place at the American Film Institute’s Conservatory on Friday has been postponed because of concerns that have been raised about the film, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
It’s the first event involving Parker that’s been called off since he became the center of controversy for his comments about a resurfaced rape trial he faced while attending Penn State in 1999.
His film about Nat Turner’s slave uprising had been set to screen at the LA-based film school’s “Opening Day,” a special screening for second-year fellows (as the students are called) that traditionally takes place at the end of the first week of the new semester. The screening is usually reserved for an upcoming, high-profile release and is accompanied by a guest who worked on the film.
Instead, the school will hold a discussion about issues raised by the film and the surrounding controversy. Fox Searchlight has told AFI it will provide the film for a screening later in the year.
AFI dean Jan Schuette explained in a letter to the fellows, “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. Next week, we will be scheduling a special moderated discussion so we may explore these issues together as artists and audience.”
Edward Zwick, who sits on the AFI Board of Directors, was an executive producer on “The Birth of a Nation.” In lieu of that screening, a screening of Paramount’s upcoming “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” which Zwick has directed, will take place.
Parker and fellow Penn State wrestler Jean Celestin, who shares a story-by credit on “The Birth of a Nation” with Parker, were accused of raping a female student. Parker was acquitted of the charges, and later transferred schools to the University of Oklahoma. Celestin was originally found guilty, but the conviction was later overturned.
Last week, it was revealed that the woman who accused the two men of rape, and also attended Penn State at the time, committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 30.
In a Facebook post, Parker wrote: “I myself just learned that the young woman ended her own life several years ago and I am filled with profound sorrow.” He continued, “While I maintain my innocence that the encounter was unambiguously consensual, there are things more important than the law.”