Nate Parker, the director, writer and star of “The Birth of a Nation,” will be among the guests at the 60th BFI London Film Festival, which is likely to inject a note of controversy into the October event.
The announcement Thursday of Parker’s participation comes amid a heated debate in the U.S. concerning an allegation of rape made against him in 1999, when he was in college; he was acquitted of the charge in a 2001 trial. Variety revealed recently that the female student who made the accusation committed suicide in 2012.
“The Birth of a Nation” has its European premiere at the London festival in a gala red-carpet screening. There is some concern that the controversy surrounding Parker might overshadow the filmmaking achievements of other guests at the festival.
Variety‘s request for comment from the festival, which is headed by Clare Stewart, elicited the following response: “We are proud to bring this powerful film to U.K. audiences for the first time, having programmed ‘The Birth of a Nation’ following the success and impact of its premiere presentation in January.
“The festival’s role is to program and present outstanding cinema from around the world, and ‘The Birth of a Nation’ is one of the year’s most significant films, which brings an important story to the big screen.”
A screening and Q&A with Parker scheduled for last week at the AFI was canceled because of the controversy. Parker is expected to speak to reporters Sept. 10 in a press conference at the Toronto Film Festival, a day after his movie screens there.
Other guests at the London festival, which runs Oct. 5-16, include Oliver Stone, Nicole Kidman, Amma Asante, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Rosamund Pike, Laura Carmichael, Kenneth Lonergan and Tom Ford.
Besides “The Birth of a Nation,” films receiving gala screenings in London include Lone Scherfig’s “Their Finest,” Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea,” Stone’s “Snowden,” J.A. Bayona’s “A Monster Calls” and Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival.” Other high-profile movies in the lineup include Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” and Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals.”
As previously announced, the festival opens with the European premiere of Amma Asante’s “A United Kingdom,” starring Oyelowo and Pike, and closes with the European premiere of Ben Wheatley’s “Free Fire,” starring Brie Larson, Murphy and Armie Hammer.
Other previously announced red-carpet screenings include Garth Davis’ “Lion,” staring Dev Patel, Rooney Mara and Kidman, and Mira Nair’s “Queen of Katwe,” starring Oyelowo and Nyong’o.
The festival will incorporate a new temporary movie theater, known as the Embankment Garden Cinema, on the north bank of the Thames in the center of London. It will have 780 seats, Dolby 7.1 surround sound and 4k digital projection.
Martin Koolhoven, “Brimstone”
Kelly Reichardt, “Certain Women”
Mohamed Diab, “Clash”
Paul Verhoeven, “Elle”
Francois Ozon, “Frantz”
Ivan Sen, “Goldstone” (European premiere)
Mijke De Jong, “Layla M.” (European premiere)
Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight” (European premiere)
Pablo Larrain, “Neruda”
Terence Davies, “A Quiet Passion”
Benedict Andrews, “Una” (European premiere)
Makoto Shinkai, “Your Name”
FIRST FEATURE COMPETITION
Jorge Riquelme Serrano, “Chameleon” (international premiere)
Darren Thornton, “A Date for Mad Mary”
Houda Benyamina, “Divines”
Johannes Nyholm, “The Giant”
Mohamed Ben Attia, “Hedi”
William Oldroyd, “Lady Macbeth”
Hope Dickson Leach, “The Levelling” (European premiere)
Claude Barras, “My Life as a Courgette”
Bartosz M. Kowalski, “Playground”
Gabe Klinger, “Porto”
Julia Ducournau, “Raw”
Wang Yichun, “What’s in the Darkness”
Daouda Coulibaly, “Wulu”