The resurfacing of a 1999 rape case involving Nate Parker and collaborator and longtime friend Jean Celestin, has left many questioning what lies ahead for the duo, especially in terms of their upcoming film, The Birth of A Nation.
Parker was acquitted in 2001, but Celestin was found guilty of assault and sentenced to six months in prison. He appealed in 2005, but the case was thrown out because the victim didn’t want to testify. She later sued Penn State and was awarded $17,500 during an out of court settlement. On Tuesday, reports surfaced that the young woman committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 30.
Critics continue to suggest that Parker has not shown enough remorse in his response to the serious allegations and many threads on social media have weighed in on what’s a risk, including discussions surrounding rape culture, race and class.
Parker took to Facebook on Tuesday to give an unfiltered, not “through a third-party,” account in response.
In the post Parker acknowledges that depth of the accusations coupled with his status, opened the door for scrutiny, and understands the need for healthy conversations regarding women’s rights and consent.
As a father, husband and man of faith, he says, “I understand how much confusion and pain this incident has had on so many, most importantly the young woman who was involved.”
He then goes on to say that he recently discovered that the young woman took her life, and expresses his anguish.
“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. I can’t help but think of all the implications this has for her family,” he said.
He continues, saying that as a man of faith he cannot ignore the morality issue brought to light and regrets displaying a lack of “wisdom.” But more so, he feels that his comments regarding his innocence were void of compassion.
“I see now that I may not have shown enough empathy even as I fought to clear my name. Empathy for the young woman and empathy for the seriousness of the situation I put myself and others in,” he said.
However, he ends the post saying that with all of his regret, he cannot change the past and only wishes to move forward.
“I have never run from this period in my life and I never ever will,” he writes. “Please don’t take this as an attempt to solve this with a statement. I urge you only to take accept this letter as my response to the moment.”
As of Wednesday, the post has over 530 comments and over 350 shares.
According to Variety, Fox Searchlight Studios is pulling together all resources to promote Nate Parker’s The Birth of A Nation, in conjunction with the actor and director’s stormy past.
The studio outbid competitors, paying a record-breaking $17.5 million for distribution rights after the film’s premiere at Sundance earlier this year.
The controversy ramped up last week when Parker was asked about a 1999 rape charge involving him and Jean Celestin, his college roommate and Birth of A Nation collaborator, while they were students at Penn State University.
In response to the questioning Parker said the following to Variety:
“Seventeen years ago, I experienced a very painful moment in my life. It resulted in it being litigated. I was cleared of it. That’s that. 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 — I can’t relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now.
My life will be examined and put under the microscope in ways that it never has. There are numerous things that are surfacing. 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.”
In 1999 an 18-year-old woman alleged that Parker and Celestin raped her while she was unconscious after a night of drinking in the roommates apartment. The victim also alleged that Parker and Celestin stalked her after she reported the incident to police.
Parker was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing in 2001, but Celestin was found guilty and sentenced to six months in prison. He appealed in 2005, but the case was thrown out because the victim didn’t want to testify. She later sued Penn State and was awarded $17,500 during an out of court settlement, Variety reports.
Twitter raised critique over the release of accusations, while others said Parker seemed flippant and absolved of responsibility.
As sexual assault remains a crucial social justice topic, Variety reports Foxlight is weighing how to address the controversy, and are considering new marketing methods assigned to their multi-million dollar rollout budget. Studio heads allegedly held a meeting Monday with Parker and his team to discuss next steps.
The studio released a statement in support of Parker:
“Fox Searchlight is aware of the incident that occurred while Nate Parker was at Penn State. We also know that he was found innocent and cleared of all charges. We stand behind Nate and are proud to help bring this important and powerful story to the screen.”
According to Variety, studio executives are considering halting interviews for Parker until the Toronto Film Festival in September. The Birth of A Nation is slated to open in theaters everywhere on October 7.
SOURCE: Variety | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty
UPDATED: Wednesday, August 17, 7:30 A.M. EST