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Actor and filmmaker, Nate Parker has been under fire for quite some time, as the release date of his new movie Birth of a Nation approaches. Birth of a Nation is based on the story of Nat Turner, an enslaved man in Virginia who led a slave rebellion in the 1800’s. Co-written by Parker and colleague, Jean McGianni Celestin, the movie features Parker as the main character. After garnering much attention from the media, reports of Parker and Celestin’s dark past began to emerge.
In 1999, Parker and Celestin were charged with the rape of an 18-year-old girl at Pennsylvania State University, where Parker and Celestin were both students. Parker allegedly engaged in consensual sex with the young woman prior to her falling unconscious and being sexually assaulted by Celestin. Although both Parker and Celestin were both tried in the case, however Parker was acquitted in 2001. Celestin was immediately convicted, however, the charge was overturned four years later due to a ruling stating that his trial attorney was ineffective in defending him. After dropping out of college and several suicide attempts, the young woman successfully committed suicide in 2012.
It is extremely ironic that the plot of Birth of a Nation is centered on the rape of Nat Turner’s wife. Co-writers, Parker and Celestin wrote a brutal rape scene into the film, inciting major controversy amongst the media and the public. In his first televised interview since the rape scandal was uncovered, Parker is shockingly unapologetic about the entire situation. Commercials for his upcoming interview with 60 Minutes suggest that Parker won’t be apologizing for his actions any time soon. “I don’t feel guilty. I was falsely accused … I went to court … I was vindicated. I feel terrible that this woman isn’t here … her family had to deal with that. But as I sit here, an apology is — no,” said Parker.
Could Parker and Celestin be using Birth of Nation to assuage their guilty consciences? How were these two men able to write such a brutal rape scene? Did the thought of their personal experience with sexual assault ever come to mind? Do they have to live with the regret and shame everyday, much like their accuser? These are all questions that come to mind as Birth of a Nation comes closer to its release. It seems that Parker is attempting to sweep the entire controversy under the rug, and is instead trying to focus attention on the movie. He has showed no signs of guilt or remorse, as Parker has made it clear that he believes he did nothing wrong. The young woman suffered for years, eventually committing suicide, and yet Parker and Celestin are excelling in life and in their careers, without shame. Despite Parker’s pleas to focus on the movie, many are calling for a boycott of Birth of a Nation. The public is asking that the money that would have been spent on movie tickets, be donated to organizations that support victims of sexual assault.