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Nate Parker’s provocative poster for his film The Birth of a Nation has been transformed by a prolific street artist into a rape allegation against the writer-director-star, and the Photoshopped artwork was posted in several locations around West Los Angeles as of early Wednesday morning.
The original poster shows Parker’s Nat Turner, the slave revolt leader he plays in the film, with a noose made from an American flag around his neck.
The Photoshopped version of the poster, created overnight by conservative street artist Sabo, features the same image, though the title of the film has been replaced by Parker’s name with “Rapist?” underneath it.
The artwork comes as a 1999 sexual-assault case, in which Parker was acquitted but co-writer Jean Celestin was convicted and then had his case overturned on appeal, has resurfaced. Parker and Celestin were charged with raping a young woman in 1999 when all three were students at Pennsylvania State University. It also was recently discovered that the accuser dropped out of college, attempted suicide multiple times and died four years ago at age 30.
“I was very offended when I first saw the unedited, original poster,” Sabo tells The Hollywood Reporter. “What it tells young, influential blacks is that their country is out to hang them, that they don’t stand a chance so why try?”
Sabo’s poster has been plastered on bus stops and street poles all over West L.A., in some cases just a stone’s throw from the studios where movies and TV shows are made. The poster in the photo above, for instance, is located on Motor Avenue, right outside the Fox lot. Fox Searchlight, the studio’s specialty division, is releasing the film.
Sabo frequently creates street art featuring a political message and surreptitiously peppers his chosen area with his creations. He recently hit Cleveland during the GOP convention, for example, with artwork promoting Dinesh D’Souza’s movie, Hillary’s America. He also has promoted Sen. Ted Cruz and lampooned several Hollywood stars through his artwork.
Parker’s Birth of a Nation was a hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it sold to Fox Searchlight for a record $17.5 million. The movie is set to open in theaters in October.
“Normally I wouldn’t hit on a subject like this, but I hate everything about this poster,” says Sabo. “With the country as divided as it is, I can only imagine how many people are going to lose their lives after this movie comes out. I can only imagine how many white people are going to get beat up just for being white.”
Before Sabo’s artwork surfaced, Parker addressed the swirling controversy on his Facebook page, writing: “I myself just learned that the young woman ended her own life several years ago and I am filled with profound sorrow. I can’t tell you how hard it is to hear this news.”
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