×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

AFI Cancels ‘Birth of a Nation’ Screening, Nate Parker Q&A

The American Film Institute has canceled its Friday screening of “Birth of a Nation,” which was to be followed by a Q&A with filmmaker and star Nate Parker, whose 1999 rape case has put the filmmaker and distributor Fox Searchlight on the defensive this past week.

AFI dean Jan Schuette made the announcement to students late Tuesday. The AFI screening would have been Parker’s first public event since the story about the rape case became widely known earlier this month.

“I have been the recipient of many different passionate points of view about the screening, and I believe it is essential that we discuss these issues together — messenger and message, gender, race and more — before we see the film,” Schuette said. “Next week, we will be scheduling a special moderated discussion so we may explore these issues together as artists and audience.”

Fox will hold a different AFI screening of “Birth” later this year. The studio has vowed to continue its theatrical release and publicity tour for the Nat Turner biopic, which opens Oct. 7, despite the recent headlines involving Parker.

In 1999, Parker and his friend, Jean Celestin, who is credited as a writer on “Birth of a Nation,” 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 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.

Last week, Variety broke the news that the unidentified victim killed herself in 2012 after swallowing nearly 200 sleeping pills.

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.”

AFI will instead hold a screening of Paramount’s “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” directed by Edward Zwick, on Friday as part of its “Opening Day,” a special screening for second-year fellows that occurs at the end of the first week of the new semester.

Zwick, a member of the AFI Board of Directors, is also an executive producer on “The Birth of a Nation,” the story of Nat Turner’s failed 1831 slave rebellion. Schuett said that Fox has agreed to hold a screening of the film at a yet-to-be announced date.

“Fox has agreed to host a screening of the film for us later in the year, and I’m happy to announce here that we are going to double down on Ed Zwick’s talent and generosity — and the Second Year Opening Day will also be ‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’ — and he and Marshall Herskovitz will return to discuss the film and meet you,” Schuett said.

Herskovitz is Zwick’s longtime producing partner. Zwick, Herskovitz and Richard Wenk wrote the screenplay for the sequel.

Schuett has been dealing with the fallout from dismissals among the AFI faculty. The faculty union called on the administration Tuesday to fire Schuett.

Fox Searchlight bought “The Birth of a Nation” for a record-breaking $17.5 million following its premiere in January at the  Sundance Film Festival. Parker produced, directed from his own script — on which he shares story credit with Celestin — along with starring as Nat Turner.

Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Penelope Ann Miller and Gabrielle Union also star in “The Birth of a Nation,” which won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at Sundance.

More Film

  • RUDOLF NUREYEV 1961

    Film Review: 'Nureyev'

    It would be absurd to say that Rudolf Nureyev lived, or danced, in anyone’s shadow. He was a man who leapt and twirled and flew onstage, all muscle but light as a feather, with a freedom and force that reconfigured the human spirit. There’s no denying, though, that over the last few decades, and especially [...]

  • Die Kinder Der Toten review

    Film Review: 'Die Kinder Der Toten'

    The hills are alive (or rather, undead), with the sound of music (also mastication and the moaning of zombies) in Kelly Copper and Pavol Liska’s experimental, dialogue-free, home-movie-style riff on Elfriede Jelinek’s “Die Kinder Der Toten” (The Children of the Dead). A seminal text in Jelinek’s native Austria, the 1995 book has never been translated [...]

  • Idol review

    Film Review: 'Idol'

    How many twists can a plot undergo before it snaps? This, more than any of the many political, moral and personal conundrums that snake through “Idol,” seems to be the question writer-director Lee Su-jin is most interested in posing with his extravagantly incomprehensible sophomore feature. A seedy political thriller by way of grisly revenge movie [...]

  • The Last to See Them review

    Film Review: 'The Last to See Them'

    Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” stretches long as a late-evening shadow over Italian director Sara Summa’s feature debut “The Last to See Them.” The Italian title, “Gli Ultimi Viderli Vivere” which translates literally to “The Last to See Them Alive,” is also the heading of the opening chapter of Capote’s book. The setting is, similarly, [...]

  • Kalank

    Film Review: ‘Kalank’

    Events leading to the 1947 Partition of India serve as the forebodingly serious backdrop for the exhaustingly overextended razzmatazz of “Kalank,” writer-director Abhishek Varman’s lavish but ponderous Bollywood extravaganza, which opened in the U.S. on more than 300 screens the same day as its Indian release. Despite the preponderance of sets and costumes spectacular enough [...]

  • WGA Agency Packaging Fight Placeholder Writer

    WGA: 92 Percent of Writers Who Signed Statement of Support Have Fired Agents

    The Writers Guild of America estimated that over 92 percent of their members who support a new code of conduct for talent agencies have fired those representatives. Letters announcing formal termination will be delivered on Monday, the guild said in a late-hitting memo on Thursday, as most agencies will be closed tomorrow in observance of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content