Art Versus The Artist: The Birth Of A Nation And Nate Parker
The revered art of storytelling is one of modern societies oldest and adored traditions. Often stories get altered as they pass down from storytellers to audiences. Storytellers add their flare, in hopes of having their legacies cemented with the story. However, what draws us to the story, the actual story or the person who told it? Nate Parker, director, and star of the film The Birth of a Nation has found himself surrounded by controversy as his epic film sets to debut on October 7, 2016. Not only did the film win both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for American Dramatic Features, but The Birth of a Nation shattered records for selling all rights and privileges to Fox Searchlight Pictures for a whopping $17.5 million (the highest movie bid in Sundance history). But why isn’t Parker relishing in all these esteemed accolades?
“Seventeen years ago, I experienced a very painful moment in my life,” Parker told Variety. “It resulted in it being litigated. I was cleared of it. That’s that. Seventeen years later, I’m a filmmaker. I have a family. I have five beautiful daughters. I have a lovely wife. I get it. The reality is” — he took a long silence — “I can’t relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now.”
Details of Parker’s 2001 acquittal, from a 1999 collegiate rape case while attending Pennsylvania State University, resurfaced after his successful screening at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. The movie also struck a nerve with several special interest groups, due to the nature of the film itself. The Birth of a Nation, tells the story of one of the most violent slave rebellions in history, as Nat Turner (played by Parker) a literate and religious slave, lead a charge against the injustices of slavery including rape and oppression.
Gabrielle Union who also stars in the film sent a shock wave to the world by revealing to the Los Angeles Times, that she was also a victim of rape and learned about Parker’s past after filming finished. Union went on to say, “Since Nate Parker’s story was revealed to me, I have found myself in a state of stomach-churning confusion. I took this role because I related to the experience. I also wanted to give a voice to my character, who remains silent throughout the film. In her silence, she represents countless black women who have been and continue to be violated. Women without a voice, without power. Women in general. But black women in particular. I knew I could walk out of our movie and speak to the audience about what it feels like to be a survivor.”
The story of Nat Turner is one that rarely gets mentioned, but is a powerful one for the big screen. Laced with a list of great actors and stellar reviews, this film will surely propel into Academy Award contention.
In some instances, the public has been able to forgive athletes and other entertainers for their past transgressions, so will this be different? Will you be able to separate the art from the artist?
CHECK OUT THE TRAILER FOR THE BIRTH OF A NATION OPENING FRIDAY OCTOBER 7TH.