Monday, April 15, 2024

“Birth of a Nation” Nate Parker Revelations Pose Dilemmas: How Does Studio Release Film? Will TIFF Still Want It?


The revelations about actor-writer-director Nate Parker and his “Birth of a Nation” pose dilemmas unseen before in the film biz.

For one, how does Fox Searchlight release the film? Do they release it all? Can they claim fraud of some kind to recoup the millions they paid or have laid out?

And does the Toronto Film Festival still show the movie? It seems inconceivable that “Birth of a Nation” could be featured as a gala or special presentation with press involvement.

The revelations today from Variety that Parker’s 1999 rape accuser killed herself in 2012 more or less put an end to marketing “Birth of a Nation.” What’s worse is, I’m told when Variety (and perhaps Deadline also) interviewed Parker, they didn’t know the young woman was dead, and Parker didn’t volunteer the information.

That seems most egregious of all. In Ramin Setoodeh’s original Variety piece, he noted that Parker brought along his 6 year old daughter to the interview. For heaven’s sake, what purpose was that supposed to serve?

What’s mind blowing is that Parker’s story hadn’t come out in all the time he’d been acting. It’s been a decade since “The Great Debaters” brought him into the public eye. No one from Penn State raised their hand when Parker first started becoming famous, to mention the rape trial. And since Sundance, until now, there’s been no talk of this.

Even worse, I guess, for Fox Searchlight and the movie’s financiers will be questions of who knew what when? Because suddenly what seemed like a golden film headed for massive accolades, “Birth of a Nation” is headed into uncharted waters.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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