At the start of 2016, Nate Parker‘s passion project The Birth of a Nation seemed primed for Oscar glory, endless raves, and reserved placement in the bulk of 2016’s “year in film” type discussions. As we approach the end of 2016, Parker’s film is not viewed in anywhere near as glowing terms. Vocal backlash over the filmmaker being accused of rape in 1999 and his subsequent handing said backlash (he was eventually acquitted) cast a shadow over the film, a motion picture that saw its critical approval shrink after its proper release and audiences kept their distance. One actor/producer/director is piping up to voice his displeasure in this turn of events and it’s a filmmaker with his own ocean liner of baggage.
Hacksaw Ridge helmer Mel Gibson came to Parker’s defense during The Hollywood Reporter‘s directors roundtable. In Gibson’s view, Parker’s an innocent man paying for crimes he did not commit.
THR: A lot of people didn’t see Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation because of the controversy surrounding him. Was that fair?
Gibson: I don’t think it’s fair. He was cleared of all that stuff [a rape trial in which Parker was found not guilty]. And it was years ago. You have to follow the system there. I think he’s innocent of all that stuff. The fact that he has to live with that stigma, and that it affects the art he does, is unfair.
Queen of Katwe director Mira Nair also provided her view on the subject. Her take on the matter does place art in its own realm, but with valuable insight on how audiences would interpret the film with Parker’s background.
I think yes, the art should be separated. But in this case, it was ironic that at the heart of Birth of a Nation was the nature of what he was linked with [a rape of the lead character’s wife]. That was, I think, what created ambiguity and confusion in the eyes of the audience.
(Via The Hollywood Reporter)