A junket interview between Nate Parker and a Canadian journalist was cut short after the reporter asked a question about how Fox Searchlight might have “changed their strategy” for The Birth of a Nation in the wake of Parker’s 1999 rape trial becoming a major news story.
CBC reporter Eli Glasner spoke to Parker at the Toronto International Film Festival as part of a press junket for The Birth of a Nation, Parker’s film about slave rebellion leader Nat Turner. He first asked a question about how the allegations against Parker could affect the film. “The film screened last night. The film screened at Sundance. There are 400-plus people who worked on this film. So many hours put into it, so much love put into it. Even just the legacy of Nat Turner. His sacrifice, what he gave. The energy that went into destroying his legacy. And here we are, and you’re here,” Parker replied.
After Glasner asked about Fox Searchlight, which purchased The Birth of a Nation at the Sundance Film Festival for a record $17.5 million, his interview was cut short. “Thanks, Eli,” a voice off-camera is heard saying. “We’ve got to wrap up.”
Speaking about the interview on CBC, Glasner said “they cut my interview short” after the question. “I was given five minutes of time. They have someone in the room who will give you the wrap signal when you’re getting close. I was nowhere near that,” Glasner said. “But I think when they saw the direction that I was going, and I’m still kind of pushing to get answers on what he has to say about his past and whether he’s changed, that was it.”
While students at Penn State University in 1999, Parker and his Birth of a Nation collaborator Jean Celestin, who has a story credit on the film, were accused of allegedly sexual assaulting a fellow student. Parker was acquitted of the charges; Celestin was convicted, but the verdict was later overturned on account of an ineffective defense.
The 1999 case shot back into the news cycle after Parker was asked about it during an interview with Variety last month. It was subsequently revealed the alleged victim had died by suicide in 2012.
Parker’s The Birth of a Nation scored a pair of strong ovations after its Toronto International Film Festival screenings on Friday night. On Sunday, Parker and the film’s cast participated in a press conference where the 36-year-old filmmaker was asked if he had wanted to apologize to the alleged victim and her family. “This is a forum for the film,” he said. “For the other people sitting here on this stage. It’s not mine, it doesn’t belong to me. I don’t want to hijack this with my personal life.”
Watch Glasner’s interview with Parker below.