Ever since press began for The Birth of a Nation, the film has been overshadowed by rape allegations against its writing and directing team, Nate Parker and Jean Celestin.
On Sunday, Parker sat down with Anderson Cooper for 60 Minutes to discuss the allegations and those who say they won’t see the film now that the accusations have come to light.
Both Parker and Celestin were accused of raping a college freshman in 1999. Parker was acquitted, but Celestin was convicted. Later, his verdict was overturned on appeal. The woman eventually dropped out of school, and in 2012 committed suicide.
Parker maintains that he does not feel guilty about the situation and refuses to apologize because “As a Christian man, just being in that situation, yeah, sure. I’m 36 years old right now. And my faith is very important to me. So looking back through that lens, I definitely feel like it’s not the lens that I had when I was 19 years old.”
“You know, at some point I have to say it, I was falsely accused. I went to court. I sat in trial. I was vindicated — I was proven innocent. I was vindicated.”
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There are two things made clear during Parker’s interview with Cooper: that he believes being acquitted or found not guilty is proof of innocence — it’s not. And, that because he’s a Christian man today the actions of his past have no weight — they do.
Parker went on to add that he feels bad for the woman’s family, that she committed suicide, but he wont be apologizing anytime soon.
“I feel terrible that this woman isn’t here. I feel terrible that her family had to deal with that. But as I sit here, an apology is, no.” He also went on to add that he believed his writing partner, Celestin, went to jail for something he didn’t do.
As for those who say they won’t see the film in light of the allegations, Parker told Cooper, “I do feel that’s unfortunate…I think the important thing, you know, is this isn’t about me. The story of Nat Turner as an American, as American people, the story about a man who was erased from history, at some point. I think that’s where our focus should be.” Parker added that Nat Turner’s story is “bigger than me. I think it’s bigger than all of us.”