After garnering the highest price of any film in Sundance history, Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation” became an early Oscar favorite.
However, a rape trial from more than 15 years ago could jeopardize that.
In 1999, Parker and a college wrestling teammate were charged with the rape of an unconscious woman, who years later committed suicide. Parker was acquitted, but his teammate, who received a writing credit on the film, was not (though that verdict was later overturned).
Parker’s case is one of several instances of past sex crimes vastly changing the perception of Hollywood stars -- most notably Roman Polanski and Woody Allen.
However, the resurfacing of Parker’s story comes at time of heightened awareness of sex-related crimes on college campuses, after Stanford swimmer Brock Turner was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.
“The Birth of a Nation,” which follows Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion, also comes at a time of increased racial awareness in America. #OscarsSoWhite called out the lack of diversity at this year’s Oscars, while protests this summer across the country have challenged the way police treat African-Americans.
This heightened awareness of race in America and sex crimes has put “The Birth of a Nation” in a difficult position, raising tough questions about race and sexual violence in Hollywood.
Should a director’s personal life affect the way a film is received? Will the controversy affect “Birth of a Nation’s” Oscar chances, and will you go to see it?
Rebecca Keegan, entertainment reporter for the LA Times, she is the author of the recent article "A decades-old college rape case casts cloud over Oscar hopeful Nate Parker;" you can hear her here on KPCC every Monday on Take Two’s On the Lot
Justin Chang, Film Critic for KPCC and the LA Times
Andy Klein, Film Critic for KPCC