According to Variety, Fox Searchlight Studios is pulling together all resources to promote Nate Parker’s The Birth of A Nation, in conjunction with the actor and director’s stormy past.
The studio outbid competitors, paying a record-breaking $17.5 million for distribution rights after the film’s premiere at Sundance earlier this year.
The controversy ramped up last week when Parker was asked about a 1999 rape charge involving him and Jean Celestin, his college roommate and Birth of A Nation collaborator, while they were students at Penn State University.
In response to the questioning Parker said the following to Variety:
“Seventeen years ago, I experienced a very painful moment in my life. 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 — I can’t relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now.
My life will be examined and put under the microscope in ways that it never has. There are numerous things that are surfacing. But I’ve always been an open book. I’m an advocate of justice. I’m an older man. I’ve matured a lot. I’ve had many obstacles in my life. I grew up very poor. My father passed away. There are so many things that happened. At the same time, I am the man that I am. I am open to the scrutiny. I will never hide anything from my past.”
In 1999 an 18-year-old woman alleged that Parker and Celestin raped her while she was unconscious after a night of drinking in the roommates apartment. The victim also alleged that Parker and Celestin stalked her after she reported the incident to police.
Parker was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing in 2001, but Celestin was found guilty and sentenced to six months in prison. He appealed in 2005, but the case was thrown out because the victim didn’t want to testify. She later sued Penn State and was awarded $17,500 during an out of court settlement, Variety reports.
Twitter raised critique over the release of accusations, while others said Parker seemed flippant and absolved of responsibility.
As sexual assault remains a crucial social justice topic, Variety reports Foxlight is weighing how to address the controversy, and are considering new marketing methods assigned to their multi-million dollar rollout budget. Studio heads allegedly held a meeting Monday with Parker and his team to discuss next steps.
The studio released a statement in support of Parker:
“Fox Searchlight is aware of the incident that occurred while Nate Parker was at Penn State. We also know that he was found innocent and cleared of all charges. We stand behind Nate and are proud to help bring this important and powerful story to the screen.”
According to Variety, studio executives are considering halting interviews for Parker until the Toronto Film festival in September. The Birth of A Nation is slated to open in theaters everywhere on October 7.
SOURCE: Variety | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty