Toronto Film Festival Will Screen Nate Parker's 'Birth of a Nation' Despite College Rape Trial Fallout
"We will present the film as planned," fest organizers said Wednesday, a day after Parker's rape accuser was revealed to have died in 2012.
The Toronto Film Festival is standing by plans to give Nate Parker's Sundance sensation The Birth of a Nation an international premiere next month to launch the movie's Oscar campaign.
"TIFF is proud to help bring Birth of a Nation and the important story it tells to audiences. We will present the film as planned," festival organizers told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday in a statement. Toronto is sticking with The Birth of a Nation after a woman at the center of a college sexual assault case involving director-writer-star Nate Parker was revealed to have died in 2012.
Parker has found himself in the middle of a media firestorm after speaking out about the rape accusations he faced while in college at Penn State in 1999. He was acquitted of the charges while his Birth of a Nation co-writer Jean Celestin (his roommate in college) was originally found guilty. Celestin would go on to win his appeal.
On Tuesday, it was revealed that the accuser, a woman also attending Penn State at the time, had later dropped out of school and eventually made several suicide attempts. She died at the age of 30 in 2012.
Parker issued a statement on his Facebook page Tuesday night, saying: "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." (Read the full post here.)
Parker’s Birth of a Nation became a sensation at Sundance, where it debuted and was sold to Fox Searchlight for a record $17.5 million after an all-night bidding war. Fox Searchlight plans an Oct. 7 release for Birth of a Nation, and an awards-season campaign.
The film centers on slave Nat Turner, who led an uprising in 1831. Toronto artistic director Cameron Bailey wasn't available for comment on the upcoming screening of Birth of a Nation in Toronto.
Bailey on July 25 tweeted the festival was "honored to be bringing #TheBirthOfANation to Toronto audiences. Can't wait for the night!" That followed Parker on his own Twitter account indicating he was "honored" to have his film accepted into Toronto.