The media narrative behind Nate Parker’s “comeback” couldn’t be more clear.
The director behind “The Birth of a Nation” returns with “American Skin,” which just screened at the Venice Film Festival to rough reviews. The film follows a black Iraq War veteran (Parker) whose son is shot by police officers following a perfunctory traffic stop.
The film piggybacks on the Black Lives Matter movement, yet it still lacks a U.S. film distributor.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) September 3, 2019
That isn’t the story attached to the 39-year-old filmmaker, though. That involves Parker being accused of rape two decades ago along with a fellow Penn State student, Jean Celestin.
The film press has hounded Parker about it ever since “Nation” threatened to become an Oscar hopeful three years ago. The rape accusations weren’t new back then, but reporters pounced relentlessly given his new “It” director status.
The same media, by the way, that mostly ignored the sexual harassment allegations lobbed at Casey Affleck prior to him accepting the Best Actor Oscar in 2017.
The scrutiny made promoting Parker’s buzz-worthy film darn near impossible. “The Birth of a Nation” may have left the festival circuit with buzz aplenty, but it bombed at the box office and awards voters ignored it.
Now, Parker is hoping for better luck with “American Skin.” The film aligns with the progressive mantra regarding modern police tactics. He’s saying all the right things, too, almost like he’s reading from a prepared script.
To hear him speak is to witness what groupthink forces someone to say. Here’s his comments from a festival press conference late last week.
“The last 3 years have been such an learning experience for me,” Parker said. “The reality is that three years ago I was absolutely tone deaf to the realities of certain situations that were happening in the climate …There were a lot of people that were hurt by the way I responded and how I approached things, and I apologize to those people.”
Parker was found not guilty of rape by a jury of his peers. Celestin wasn’t as fortunate, but his conviction was overturned on appeal. Parker has insisted the sexual encounter with the alleged victim was consensual. Here’s what he told one reporter about the situation.
“I was falsely accused, I was proven innocent and I’m not going to apologize for that,” he told Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts.
If he’s innocent, he shouldn’t have to apologize, to you, to me or to anyone.
Now, here’s how The Hollywood Reporter framed his “The Birth of a Nation” release. “Many in the media condemned the filmmaker for a perceived lack of sensitivity or for a sufficient show of remorse.”
For being innocent and falsely accused? For refusing to apologize for a crime he didn’t commit?
NATE PARKER APOLOGIZES: @NateParker says he’s sorry for the way he handled a rape allegation from his college days and -- with #SpikeLee’s support -- he’s back with #AmericanSkin, a film about police brutality. pic.twitter.com/xBykZMunmz
— AP Entertainment (@APEntertainment) September 2, 2019
Parker’s plight bleeds directly into several reviews of “American Skin,” including this piece from the far-left Indiewire.com,
The debate over Nate Parker’s value as a person may never be conclusively decided (though it may seem otherwise in the court of public opinion), but the debate over Nate Parker’s value as a filmmaker has just been settled once and for all: He doesn’t have any. An unsolicited coda to a career that most of us assumed was already over, “American Skin” is an asinine and self-serving call to action that tries to hide its basic incompetence behind a veil of righteous fury.
We don’t know what happened during that fateful Penn State encounter. The woman accusing the men of rape took her own life in 2012. It’s possible Parker did rape her as she alleges. Or, the encounter was as consensual as Parker describes, a position he’s maintained over the years.
Our justice system found him not guilty, and there’s no fresh evidence suggesting the jury got it wrong.
So why must he continue to suffer, to make apologies and beg Hollywood of all places for forgiveness? Why is the media treating him like a convicted rapist? Why did he need Oscar-winner Spike Lee to help promote his new film and vouch for the younger filmmaker?
What if he’s telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
FAST FACT: Fox Searchlight scooped up “The Birth of a Nation” for a record $17.5 million in 2016. The film went on to make just $15.8 million at the U.S. box office.
It’s a question the media and the #MeToo culture seems disinterested in considering. John Nolte at Breitbart News penned a scathing critique of how reality show-style programs are convicting people without a trial. It’s a marvelous piece, one the mainstream media would never write.
There’s a similar trajectory to Parker’s case. The media and elements of Hollywood wanted to punish Parker three years ago. They may not fully accept his new Apology Tour.
Will they ever?
Forgiveness is a tricky subject in 2019. Our increasingly secular culture struggles when a celebrity is forced to atone for his sins. Fallen stars like Louis C.K. and Kevin Spacey are grappling with that issue right now.
Disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein will likely never be forgiven.
Mel Gibson, who apologized for his gross and hateful off-screen antics, essentially laid low for years before mounting his career comeback. He’s officially back in the industry’s good graces again, a product of being contrite and still having something profound to offer, creatively speaking.
Some of Gibson’s awful acts were captured on tape. We all know what he did, and it’s up to us whether to accept his apologies or cast him aside indefinitely.
That’s harder to do with Parker. We simply don’t know the truth beyond what the courts told us. “The Birth of a Nation” proved mesmerizing at times, and he’s too young a talent to give up on.
More importantly, he’s gone through the judicial system. He followed the rules. And he’s been dubbed innocent by a flawed system with few equals. He shouldn’t have to do anything more than make movies for our consideration.