Fox Searchlight Moving Forward With Nate Parker’s Publicity Tour, Toronto Film Festival Appearance

'Birth of a Nation' Plans Moving
Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Nate Parker is plunging ahead with plans to be the public face of “The Birth of a Nation” despite the furor surrounding rape accusations that were made against the actor, writer, and director when he was a student at Penn State University.

He will be on hand at the film’s Toronto Film Festival premiere next month, where he will participate in a scheduled media junket.

Parker and Fox Searchlight, the boutique label behind the film, have no plans to hide the filmmaker from the press. He will still go ahead with a scheduled promotional roadshow, a source close to the studio said — one that will take him to major cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston and San Francisco.

Although there has been speculation that the controversy surrounding news of the 2001 rape trial would imperil “The Birth of a Nation’s” Oscar chances, Fox Searchlight management considers that a secondary concern, sources say. The company, which is opening the movie wide on Oct. 7, as planned, is more interested in the film being a commercial success than it is with capturing awards. Fox spent a whopping $17.5 million to acquire the picture at Sundance and is prepared to make a “big media spend,” according to a source familiar with the plans.

A Toronto Film Festival official says Parker’s film will remain on the schedule for the festival, which is often a proving ground for movies hoping to make noise during awards season. “TIFF is proud to help bring ‘The Birth of a Nation’ and the important story it tells to audiences,” said a spokesperson, in a statement. “We will present the film as planned.”

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Parker stuck to his schedule in the immediate aftermath of news breaking about the 1999 rape case, in which he was acquitted. He received a Vanguard Award Thursday night from the Sundance Institute, which had supported the making of “Birth of a Nation” through its Feature Film Program. The organization also announced the creation of a Sundance Institute/Birth of a Nation Fellowship, to be awarded to young filmmakers. Over the weekend, he and Aja Naomi King (who plays Turner’s wife in the film) had a Q&A with Spike Lee at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, and separately, Fox Searchlight had a private screening of his movie.

As a student at Penn State, Parker and his friend, Jean Celestin, were charged with raping an 18-year old, who claimed she was unconscious after drinking heavily. Both men said the sex was consensual. Parker was acquitted of the rape charges in 2001, but Celestin, who co-wrote “The Birth of a Nation,” was found guilty of sexual assault. He appealed the verdict and was granted a new trial in 2005, but the case never made it back to court after the woman declined to testify again.

That part of Parker’s history has been on his Wikipedia page and on several websites, though it was not widely known throughout the industry. This week, however, news broke that Parker and Celestin’s accuser committed suicide in 2012.

In a Facebook post, Parker said he was “devastated” by the news of her death, while maintaining his innocence.

“I can’t help but think of all the implications this has for her family,” he wrote. “I cannot, nor do I want to, ignore the pain she endured during and following our trial.”

Even though Fox Searchlight is moving forward with its publicity plans, it is getting help from an outside crisis P.R. firm that is routinely enlisted by its parent company, 21st Century Fox.

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After “The Birth of a Nation” sold for a record amount at Sundance, Parker lined up a series of projects. He was slated to adapt “Carry On,” a true life story of disabled wrestlers for Walden Media, and he also sold an original feature film idea to Legendary Pictures. A spokeswoman for Walden declined to comment on whether or not the company still planned to move forward with the project. A spokesman for Legendary confirmed that Parker had a project set up at the company, but declined to offer additional comment.

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  1. JT says:

    Ever notice how these jocks work in groups?Almost as if they have a playbook? Co-rapists make great alibis. All you must do is get the girl to be with You once, and the damage is done. Now they just need rohypnol or ghb. Vanderbilt, this, on and on it goes..

    Boycott.

  2. stevenkovacs says:

    As a citizen of Toronto, I’m very upset that star struck TIFF organizers including Cameron Bailey are still planning to celebrate Nate Parker at the Gala for his movie in September. Now that the story has come out, and the fact the his and his friend’s victim killed herself out of the shame of enduring more trials, his role in the Gala celebration must be muted. Out of shallow photo ops and mingling with celebrities, the staff at TIFF have lost their moral compass. It is of no surprise local media report of planned protests at the Gala. Embarrassing for Toronto considering it’s because of a handful of TIFF organizers. The Mayor, John Tory, should ask them to cancel the planned parties for Nate Parker at TIFF!

  3. Tim says:

    I can’t wait. Sounds like a Great Film

  4. stevenkovacs says:

    Demand refund if you bought tix to the TIFF Gala. Let the empty seats symbolize the public’s disgust at his actions that contributed to this poor woman’s death.

  5. women matter says:

    Cbs am local radio, not only revealed the woman’s name, but had audio of her talking about the resulting trauma, from some years ago. Did anyone hear this? Is it true, did i hear this right?

  6. The facts of the case may adhere the evidence of the crime. The issue for the victim was facing another trial which since has become moot. What is facing Parker is PERCEPTION.

    We live in a post-Bill-Cosby celebrity/rape environment. The only court that really matters is one of public opinion. Guilt or innocence plays no role.

    It’s not what Parker (or Cosby) has done, but how he will be remembered.

  7. James says:

    Fox just wants to recoup the money they’ve invested in this pervert. Don’t give them a dime.

  8. AllWiledUp says:

    THIS is Nate Parker: so callous, cruel and vicious he would invite 2 pals to rape a girl and then organize a public, campus-wide campaign to humiliate her and now so callous he thinks nothing of going on a publicity tour to try to get an Oscar.

  9. ny er says:

    They are moving ahead, because they are also slime. Because they want money. And because now they know the poor girl is dead.

  10. reed says:

    I so wish the Toronto Film Festival would show more faith-based movies – just saying.

    • Elian Gonzalez says:

      They have to be made, first. And there are plenty of outlets for those movies which are much smaller markets.

  11. blm sux says:

    Anyone see stupid breitbart ezra story? Nate parker should be in prison, where he can have consensual cough lovin

  12. BillUSA says:

    Sure, why not? What’s a little suicide as a result of a rape have to do with Parker’s career? And you idiots wonder why liberals are detestable.

  13. stevenkovacs says:

    TIFF is celebrating a rapist? His victim killed herself as a result? Shame on TIFF and Cameron Bailey for being so willfully star-blinded as to see how immoral, wrong and offensive to society this is. The TIFF staff ‘bottom-buffers’ should be ashamed. Do they condone rape? Do they believe it’s ok if committed by a fav celebrity of theirs?
    Local media says protesters will be waiting for Nate at the Gala TIFF is holding for him, and, though I certainly would never contribute to reward this rapist by seeing any movie of his, I may join the protesters at the Gala.

    • Ken says:

      Well, one can only hope that the red carpet at TIFF this year will be less “gala” and more “gauntlet” for this problematic film-maker. Should set the tone for his upcoming appearances at the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards,

  14. Sergio says:

    Nate Parker = a tone-deaf hypocrite scrambling to hold on to his heterosexual male privilege (regardless of ethnicity). Fox Searchlights = a greedy studio scrambling to recoup the USD 17.5m it invested. I really would love to see this film but this story has ruined it for me. Court of justice might have acquitted him but I pray to God that the court of public opinion does not.

  15. reed says:

    Listen, you’re INNOCENT until proven guilty. I’m a white guy saying this. The majority of black men I know are NOT rapists. THINK.

    • ny er says:

      Didnt he marry a white woman. Strange choice. How does she fell, knowing he has raped at least one woman that we know of. You are not innocent in the eyes of God if you rape someone. If you abuse them, knowing they are intoxicated. If you stood them up, hoping she might have too much to drink by the time you get there. If you are angry that she wouldnt sleep with you, and gave you pity oral. You get your revenge. And then you lie more, stalk her, harass her.

      • ny er says:

        Yes, i agree, the mental anguish of harassment etc compounded the crime. I read a recent case at penn state, guy was guilty…but…how is parker found not guilty? He just felt so entitled…we can forget too how much stronger these guys are than a typical freshman girl. Wrestlers!!!! Where have all the gentlemen gone?!

      • Kitkat9301 says:

        I don’t mean to sound like I am diminishing the rape act. As two separate crimes I’d agree rape is 1000 times worse than stalking and harassment. What makes it worse IMO is that they continued their campaign of terrorism, taking glee in what they did, with no thoughts to the impact on her. And the school did NOTHING. I’d like to believe that she could have dealt with the rape over time with help(you never recover) had it not been for the constant harassment. I believe it was that which drove her first two suicide attempts.

      • ny er says:

        By the way, kitkat, the rape is worse than the stalking.

    • nobody important says:

      I have a feeling that a lot of people that are angrily denouncing him might be racists.

      • BL17 says:

        I am a Black Women; I am deeply disturbed by this incident and Parker’s and Celestin’s involvement. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. Just because a highly intoxicated women is in your presence does not mean you should have sex with her and invite your boys. There is no doubt in my mind that a sexual assault took place and Parker and Celestin got off sexually and legally. I cannot separate disgusting individuals from their art. I had planned to see Birth of a Nation, but now, I will not see it. I will encourage my family not to see this film. Also, I do not want to hear any excuses from Black Men about how White Men raped Black Women during Slavery and never paid for their crimes against us. As a Black Women, I expect high moral behavior from our men and all of our people. I expect all people to treat each other with human decency. I am ashamed of Parker and Celestin.

      • ny er says:

        I have a feeling people know he is the racist. Racist movie. Did you read court docs? He raped her, there is no other conclusion. If he were innocent, why would he and his partner harass and stalk her

      • Kitkat9301 says:

        You’d be wrong. Many of the angry responses to his “so called” statement of regret on Facebook are actually being made by black women. Maybe many of these women are tired of males white and black getting away with and being rewarded for treating women like garbage. The rape itself is disgusting but what’s even worse is how Parker and his BFF stalked and terrorized this woman after the fact. No regrets on his part for any of this I see. Typical

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