The 2016 Sundance film festival was first to debut the Nate Parker co-written and directed period drama “The Birth of a Nation”. The film was then picked up for a record fee of 17 million by Fox Searchlight Pictures, beating out an even larger bid from Netflix of 20 million. The reason Fox won out was because of there track record of Oscar nominated and winning pictures in the past, and instantly the odds favourite movie for the Best picture at the next Oscars was born. Cut to a few months later, and the highflying prospects of this movie seem have crashed, burned, died and been buried…So what happened?
In 1999, the director and co-writer Nate Parker, along with his other writer Jean McGianni Celestin, were accused of raping a female student of their university while she was intoxicated, and also allegedly inviting other men to join them. Celestin was later convicted and sentenced, and also spent time in prison, until the case was appealed and he was released when the victim refused to pursue the case further. To make matters worst, the victim had stated that both Nate and Jean had used certain tactics to make the trail about race, and to make her life a living hell resulting in her eventual suicide.
Cut back to present day, and these allegations have come back up in a swirling storm of problems for Nate Parker and this film in general. This ads the young director (and star of the movie) to growing list of directors and the like in HollyWood, who seem to have gotten a free pass for similar transgressions in their past, which then adds racial issues to this mixing pot of madness. What it all does however, is bring back up one the oldest and hardest questions we have to answer about art…Can we and/or should we, separate art from artist? Is the story this movie tells, and the message it carries, more important than the allegations behind its creators, or are they simply too egregious to be over looked for the sake art, and what good that art might be able to do?
I personally think that no matter you may stand on this particular case, that any chance it had an Oscar win, and maybe even at a nomination are now done and dusted. And sadly, the reason for that isn’t even that it might be the right thing to do, its because the academy as a whole would always shy away from negative attention, and awarding this movie, a masterpiece it may be, could be seen as awarding a “rapist” and thats something the academy won’t have, especially after the #oscarsowhite problems of the past.
So what do you think about all this? Was this information you knew about before, and does it change your view on the project? Do you think this movie is dead in the water like I do, and should it be? Put your comments below and let me know how you feel.