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It's awfully hard to determine which artists should be exonerated from their real lives when it comes to our consumption of their art. Should we always consider them as people before we consider them as artists? Do we go buy a ticket to see that new Woody Allen movie? Do we buy that R. Kelly album?
Nate Parker, the director and star of the upcoming Oscar bait film The Birth of a Nation, has been the center of this discussion for the past few months when his 1999 rape allegations were dug up. Seventeen years ago, 19-year-old Penn State student Parker was charged with raping a fellow student with his friend and Birth of a Nation screenwriter Jean Celestin. Both were acquitted based on the claim that it was consensual. However, the victim's brother revealed to Variety last month that she had committed suicide, and that according to her death certificate, she had suffered from "major depressive disorder with psychotic features, PTSD due to physical and sexual abuse, polysubstance abuse." (All essential information about the case can be found here.)
In past interviews, Parker has maintained his innocence, saying he was acquitted and that was all in the past. For him, maybe. The woman clearly never got over the situation and is no longer able to comment on the situation. It's not just that Parker had made a mistake many years ago (the public's forgiveness of mistakes is a whole other discussion); it's how he continues to reflect on the incident with so little remorse.
We've said this before, but I once again echo the sentiment: There's no good reason to support Nate Parker. Today, the sister of Parker's rape accuser wrote an open letter against the movie for Variety, saying she was raped by Parker, subsequently harassed, and that she even tried to testify against him again but failed. She also points out the gross rape depicted in the movie: "I find it creepy and perverse that Parker and Celestin would put a fictional rape at the center of their film and that Parker would portray himself as a hero avenging that rape."
Still, his movie, The Birth of a Nation, sold for a record-breaking $17.5 million at Sundance to Fox Searchlight and is scheduled for release next week (Oct. 7). It was set to go straight to the Oscar race. With the release of his film drawing near, Parker went on 60 Minutes for another interview, and not only did he mention being "falsely accused" again, he also refused to apologize. "I feel terrible that this woman isn’t here… her family had to deal with that, but as I sit here, an apology is—no," he said.
Well, that makes one thing clear: officially fuck this movie.