Hollywood filmmaker Nate Parker has addressed an historic rape charge ahead of the release of his new film, The Birth Of A Nation. The 36-year-old actor, whose film credits include Beyond The Lights and The Great Debators, said that he refused to allow his past to overshadow the slave revolt epic which has been tipped for an Oscar.
In 1999, Parker and his roommate Jean McGianni Celestin were charged with rape whilst attending Pennsylvania State University. The 18-year-old female claimed that she had been unconscious after a night of drinking when the duo took advantage of her in their apartment. Although the former wrestler was acquitted in 2001, Celestin − his co-writer on the film − was found guilty of sexual assault before the conviction was overturned following an appeal.
Speaking to Variety magazine, Parker said he didn't want to continue reliving the "a very painful moment in my life" having been cleared of any wrongdoing. He said: "Seventeen years later, I'm a filmmaker. I have a family. I have five beautiful daughters. I have a lovely wife. I get it. The reality is" — he took a long silence — "I can't relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now."
The Birth Of A Nation tells the story of literate slave Nat Turner (Parker), who led a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia in 1831. The film debuts at the Toronto Film Festival in September before its release in cinemas on 7 October.
During the frank interview, Parker admitted that he had already pre-empted the fall out. "There are numerous things that are surfacing," he said. "But I've always been an open book. I'm an advocate of justice. I'm an older man. I've matured a lot. I've had many obstacles in my life. I grew up very poor. My father passed away. There are so many things that happened. At the same time, I am the man that I am. I am open to the scrutiny. I will never hide anything from my past."
"I will not re-live that period of my life every time I go under the microscope."
Executive at Fox studios said they are "aware of the incident" and the fact he was cleared of all charges. A statement read: "We stand behind Nate and are proud to help bring this important and powerful story to the screen."