Birth Of Confliction - Watching Nate Parker's Film
As I type this, I am still conflicted over how to feel about the discovery of Nate Parker’s acquittal of gang rape with Lean Celestin (co-writer for Birth Of A Nation) back while he was a student at Penn State University in 1999. The news of the victim committing suicide in 2012 due to the legal system failing her (along with her startling accounts of what she went through since the case ended) has only fueled the controversy to the point that the American Film Institute cancelled a recent screening of the film and a Q&A session with Parker. The old adage of “separating the art from the artist” has again manifested itself and we all have our opinions on this. For me, as uneasy as it sounds, I will probably go see this movie when it drops in theaters in October.
Before I continue, this has to be said: RAPE NO MATTER HOW YOU DICE IT UP, IS NOT TO BE TOLERATED AT ALL!! The fact that there has been discussion all over social media about what is considered consensual between two parties tells me that we as society have a long ways to go about the matter. There is the possibility that Parker and Celestin did in fact commit rape. The official report does state that the two knew the victim was highly inebriated the night of the incident. And it is very possible that she didn’t give either man her consent to have sex.
As a budding screenwriter and a Black American, I feel that Nat Turner’s story must be told, even if it means putting money in the pockets of these two men. His rebellion against slave owners in Southampton, Virginia is a piece of history that was unbeknownst to me until this case was resurfaced. Not only that, the original 1915 Birth of film was shown in class while I took a film studies course. In the older film, it depicts blacks as rapists and dumb, while propping up the Ku Klux Klan in the same light. Clearly, this disconnect exists between black history that is being taught in our schools and the audience that is receiving this “knowledge”.
Parker’s film, from all accounts, appears to be unapologetic of its message. White slave owners were killed in 1831. Nat Turner wasn’t a morally just, God fearing individual, which is how many black activists are being portrayed in today’s school. Before this movie was created, it feels as though the powers deemed this story as unworthy of praise. The controversy surrounding the release of Parker’s movie is taking away its bigger message and that’s what I feel we should be focusing on more instead.
The truth is ugly. It isn’t supposed to be so clean. Not every struggle was handled with non-violence. White fear of black empowerment is real and for so long, that truth was sugarcoated. Earlier in the year, it felt that things were beginning to turn around as this movie earned rave reviews at the Sundance Film festival. It was getting serious Oscar buzz to the point Fox Searchlight bought the film for $17 million, which is unheard of.
So here we are with the movie in just mere months will be wide released for the general public to watch. There are many who are boycotting the film, which I completely respect, and understand because, again: RAPE AND ANY FORM OF SEXUAL ASSAULT IS NOT TO BE TOLERATED!! Shutting down Nate Parker isn’t going to get rid of the bigger racism problem that still exists in our country. Nor will it effectively address it; it’s EXTREMELY difficult, and soul pulling that this brilliant message of race comes at the expense of a woman’s life (which is NOT being excused).