'Birth Of A Nation's Nate Parker Won't Apologize For Rape Allegation
In an interview that will air on CBS's 60 Minutes on Sunday night, The Birth of a Nation director and actor Nate Parker says he won't apologize for the rape case that has resurfaced as the film is about to hit theaters.
When asked by Anderson Cooper whether he feels any guilt over the events that took place on the night of the alleged rape, Parker said, "I don't feel guilty."
When asked if he thinks he did anything morally wrong that night, Parker responded, "As a Christian man... just being in that situation, yeah, sure," but added that he has a different viewpoint now than he did that night, 17 years earlier.
In 1999, Nate Parker and his Birth of a Nation co-screenwriter Jean Celestin were accused of raping an 18-year-old woman when they were roommates and students at Penn State. The woman says she was unconscious during the sexual assault. Parker was acquitted and Celestin was sentenced to six months in prison, but appealed his verdict and was granted a new trial in 2005. The woman decided not to testify again and Celestin never went back to court.
In August, Variety reported that Parker and Celestin's accuser had taken her own life in 2012, after dropping out of college and suffering from depression after the case, according to her brother.
When asked in the 60 Minutes interview if he had anything to apologize for, Parker said "I was falsely accused... I went to court... I was vindicated. I feel terrible that this woman isn't here... her family had to deal with that, but as I sit here, an apology is—no."
Parker said he "had absolutely no idea" his accuser had taken her own life and "found out from the news."
"I was devastated, it was shocking. I couldn't believe it."
Parker directed, wrote, produced, and starred in The Birth of a Nation, a film about the 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner. It premiered at Sundance, where the rights were purchased by Fox Searchlight for $17.5 million, the largest such deal in the festival's history. The rape case has resurfaced in the last few months as the film is set to be released next week, leading to a conversation that has eclipsed the film itself.
Earlier this month, Parker's Nation co-star Gabrielle Union penned an op-ed in the L.A. Times about her "stomach-churning confusion" over the controversy. Union herself is a victim of rape, as is her character in the film. Union writes that she took the role in order to give voice to the victims of rape: "I knew I could walk out of our movie and speak to the audience about what it feels like to be a survivor."
However in a column for Variety, the sister of Parker and Celestin's accuser condemns the filmmakers for writing the rape into Nat Turner's story and "exploiting my sister again":
I find it creepy and perverse that Parker and Celestin would put a fictional rape at the center of their film, and that Parker would portray himself as a hero avenging that rape. Given what happened to my sister, and how no one was held accountable for it, I find this invention self-serving and sinister, and I take it as a cruel insult to my sister's memory.
I think it's important for people to know Nat Turner's story. But people should know that Turner did not need rape to justify what he did. Parker and Celestin did not need to add that to Turner's story to make him more sympathetic.