Monday 19 March 2018

Rape acquittal row sidestepped at premiere of The Birth Of A Nation

Nate Parker was acquitted and has always maintained the sex was consensual
Nate Parker was acquitted and has always maintained the sex was consensual

Controversial slave revolt drama The Birth Of A Nation received a low-key premiere at the BFI London Film Festival today.

The screening came after recent focus on director Nate Parker's acquittal at a rape trial in 2001.

Parker, who also stars in the film as enslaved baptist preacher Nat Turner, and castmembers Gabrielle Union, Chike Okonkwo and Armie Hammer only posed for photographs at the premiere and did not give interviews.

The film, about the most successful slave rebellion in American history, was a sensation in January at the Sundance Film Festival, where i t sold to Fox Searchlight for a reported 17.5 million dollars (£14 million) - the highest price paid for a film at the festival.

However, it has faltered at the US box office, where it opened in sixth place at the weekend amid renewed scrutiny of the allegations against Parker, who was accused of rape in 1999 while a student at Penn State University.

It later emerged the student who made the accusation killed herself in 2012.

In Los Angeles, a group of anti-rape activists held a candlelight vigil on the eve of the US release of the film on Friday.

The organisation F*** Rape Culture held a silent sit-in outside the Arclight Hollywood cinema.

Parker maintained he had consensual sex with the woman and recently told US news show 60 Minutes that he was falsely accused.

He added: "I don't feel guilty."

His college room-mate Jean McGianni Celestin, who co-wrote the film, was also accused of assault and successfully appealed against his conviction.

Union joined Parker at the premiere, despite writing in a Los Angeles Times essay in September that she felt "a state of stomach-churning confusion", and that she could not take the allegations against him lightly.

In the same essay, Union said she had been raped at gunpoint 24 years ago.

:: The Birth Of A Nation will be released in UK cinemas on January 20.

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