Tag Archives: The Birth of a Nation

Now that Nate Parker’s apologized, will you see “The Birth of a Nation”?

Image.net/Getty Images
Image.net/Getty Images

I’ve belabored the idea of writing this post because, honestly, I’ve been trying to figure out for myself exactly where I fall on the issue of Nate Parker. To be more specific, I’d been waiting to see if he’d ever issue a fuller apology after the various non-apologies he gave after the news of his 1999 rape case blew up in the media (a part of his past he’s apparently always kept in the limelight, although, if you ask many Twitter denizens including myself, we didn’t know about it). Thankfully(?) he did. But the question mark I write here is for a reason: does the apology actually help matters, or does it just make us more jaded about him? Also, does the apology help the case for whether or not we individually decide to see what has been called the most important film of 2016, his passion project The Birth of a Nation?

Parker has been on radio silence for a while since his Facebook admission a few weeks ago, once he found out the woman who accused him of rape and lived with her own trauma from that day (and the subsequent harassment by Parker and his friend/co-writer and the other half of the 1999 rape case Jean Celestin) killed herself. This seemed to be when Parker’s eyes were finally opened to the fact that yes, someone other than him had feelings associated with the case. Somehow, it took this woman’s death for Parker to actually realize that maybe he should have considered this woman as a human being, not as an object out to target him. If anyone was playing target practice, it was Parker himself.

To Parker’s credit, he owns up to this in his most recent and most candid interview with Ebony‘s Britni Danielle.

“I called a couple of sisters that [I] know are in the space that talk about the feminist movement and toxic masculinity, and just asked questions. What did I do wrong? Because I was thinking of myself. And what I realized is that I never took a moment to think about the woman. I didn’t think about her then, and I didn’t think about her when I was saying those statements, which was wrong and insensitive.”

He admits that he never grew up with a clear outline of what consent actually consisted of: according to him, all he knew of consent was if a woman said no, that meant no. But in his mind as a 19-year-old, according to him, if there was no verbal consent given, then he figured it was then all about seeing how far he could go.

“Put it this way, when you’re 19, a threesome is normal. It’s fun. When you’re 19, getting a girl to say yes, or being a dog, or being a player, cheating. Consent is all about—for me, back then—if you can get a girl to say yes, you win. …I can’t remember ever having a conversation about the definition of consent when I was a kid. I knew that no meant no, but that’s it. But if she’s down, if she’s not saying no, if she’s engaged–and I’m not talking about, just being clear, any specific situation, I’m just talking about in general.”

Throughout the interview, he discusses how he’s just now waking up to toxic masculinity culture and how he’s profited from it. He even apologized to the women who have felt offended and hurt by his remarks, and he went one step further and apologized for homophobic remarks he made years earlier. But while he’s realized how much he needs to grow, there’s still the question of if we should actually go see The Birth of a Nation and put money in his pocket. He’s still the face of the film, so should the movie and its message get stuck in the crosshairs or is the message now invalid because of the messenger? (Related: If we’re rightly holding Parker’s feet to the fire, when will Hollywood do the same for other so-called “imperfect messengers” like Roman Polanski and Woody Allen? They are also happy recipients of toxic masculinity as well as white male privilege. When will people rise up and declare they won’t see their films? I know I’m not the only one who is filled with disgust whenever a new Woody Allen project is all the buzz, with stars tripping over themselves to be in it.)

Parker wants us to believe he’s turning a new page in his life. There’s ample reason in his statements for those inclined to believe him to do so. There’s also ample reason for those who don’t believe him to not trust a single thing he said.

Parker is asked to address the idea that many folks will have, which is that he’s suddenly come to this fantastic realization about toxic male privilege now that 1) his movie’s success hangs in the balance (he’s already had one screening/Q&A session cancelled) and most importantly 2) he’s realized the woman he wronged died because of her trauma. On one hand, it’s a sad state of affairs when someone else’s death has to be a wake-up call that you royally messed up. The fact that he couldn’t even think outside of himself when it came to the victim’s feelings is, to be blunt, disturbing. Just because he felt like he didn’t do anything wrong because of his poor definition of consent clearly doesn’t mean he was right. He states in the interview that it was wrong of him to think of himself as the victim because to do so, after you’ve severely damaged someone else because of your actions, takes a lot of ignorance, ego, and a lack of self-awareness.

On the other hand, if Parker really has seen the light, so to speak, then doesn’t he deserve a chance to grow into his newfound awareness?

Parker says he wants to be a leader. I think “leader” is a bridge too far; you can’t lead when you don’t know what you’re talking about, and Parker clearly still needs help not centering the act and its aftermath around him and his feelings. Parker says he’s taking this all with humility, and I suggest he take even higher doses of humility because it shouldn’t take having a wife and daughter yourself to realize that women deserve respect whether they say yes, no, or nothing at all. No one is supposed to take what isn’t given, and Parker still seems to rest his conscience on the idea that because he didn’t know what true consent meant as a 19-year-old, everyone must have thought the same thing. Parker’s going to have a rude awakening when he realizes that no, not every teenager grows up thinking threesomes are cool, or that being a dog is awesome, or that a girl not giving a clear yes means that consent is there. Somewhere along the way, Parker missed some key life lessons, and masculinity culture allowed him to believe that he’d never need those lessons.

What I do think, though, is that perhaps Parker could try to parlay his newfound awakening into becoming a self-appointed example of What Not To Do. When it comes to being a leader in the battle against gender discrimination, he’s going to have to tell boys and men like him to change. Those are the only people can he speak to on that front.

His very first lesson to that select group should be to become aware of what traumas and experiences the women in their lives have had to deal with. Keep in mind, he states in the interview that h didn’t even know that some of the women who worked on The Birth of a Nation were rape survivors. I can only assume he’s referencing Gabrielle Union in that group, who has spoken about her trauma before. If he didn’t know that, especially since she plays a sexual assault victim in the movie, then that speaks volumes to the lack of awareness he had about how deeply rooted women’s pain is tied to violent masculinity.

If he plans on doing some good and make a difference, he must speak to the young Nate Parkers of America and tell them to become acquainted with their own role in toxic masculinity, just as he had to. He must tell them to learn the histories of their mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and friends. He must tell them to know of the smallest slight a woman can face to the greatest injustice they have to silently bear. In short, he must tell them to quit thinking of women as conquests, objects and toys, and to them of them as human beings worthy of respect, both in words and actions.

All of this goes back to the central question: Should we forgive Parker and see The Birth of a Nation, a film we were all pumped for before this news broke? I can’t answer that for you. It will have to be a personal decision you make for yourself.

As for me: I originally stated at the start of this scandal that I couldn’t see myself going to the film. My thought now though is that I’m conflicted, quite honestly. The Birth of a Nation is a film we probably won’t get to see again for some time, sadly. The story of Nat Turner is one too important to American history, and it’s truly a shame it hasn’t been made into a film until now. But what happens if we miss The Birth of a Nation and are never presented with another opportunity to see Nat Turner’s story on screen until another 100 years from now? What also happens to honoring the work made by Union and Aja Naomi King, who both star in this film? Should their contributions to the film be ignored because Parker is at the helm? It is easy to dismiss Parker, but unfortunately, is dismissing the film also forcing us to dismiss Union and King?

I’ve asked myself these questions, and I still don’t have an answer as to what I’m going to do once the film opens in theaters. We’ll see when the time comes. Now I turn it over to you: What are you going to do? Let me know in the comments section!

EDIT: One of the comments got me to thinking about my own answer to my own question: would I go see this movie? And the answer has to be no. A woman did die, after all.

As the commenter intimated, the hangup over the film shouldn’t really exist, so I had been thinking about why the hangup was there to begin with. I had attempted to address that in this article the first time around, but I think Elahe Izadi sums up what I was trying to get at even better with her Washington Post article about the situation. She writes, in part:

For other artists embroiled in controversy, it can be easier for audiences to dismiss their work if it’s more trivial in nature. Take Woody Allen, who was investigated years ago amid accusations that he molested the daughter he adopted with Mia Farrow. He hasn’t faced criminal charges and has denied the allegations, while many prominent Hollywood figures, as well as the daughter, have said they believe he’s guilty. Allen’s films may be creatively groundbreaking, funny or critically acclaimed, but he’s not telling a story Hollywood has never told before or paving the way for a much needed national conversation.

Then there’s R. Kelly, who was acquitted of child pornography charges and has faced numerous allegations of sexually assaulting underage girls. People like R. Kelly’s music simply because it’s entertaining, aesthetically good or ironically funny — not because it’s profound. But the content of his work can make it difficult to ignore the allegations — his music is about sex. Some refuse to listen to it because they think he’s guilty.

Interacting with “The Birth of a Nation” feels different. Parker has called the project “a healing mechanism for America.” That’s a tall order.

Maybe if there were more films like it out there already, the stakes wouldn’t seem so high.

I’ve bolded the last sentence since that’s really the part I’d been struggling with and annoyed by, to understate it; because of Hollywood’s initial lack of interest in these stories, it’s left the moviegoing public and Oscar voters tho choose between a film in which the stakes are very high for itself (and others like it) and their own morality, to be blunt. However, a film shouldn’t have to have such high stakes, and this film wouldn’t if there were other films of its kind out there. If Hollywood had always invested in diverse and inclusive filmmaking, the choice to see or not see this film would be easier for some. However, I personally shouldn’t have to seriously weigh my conscience before seeing a film. So the final answer is no, I can’t see this film and think I could live in alignment with myself.

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Diversity Alert: “Star Wars: Episode VIII”, Ava DuVernay, “Roots” and “Underground” TV Trailers+ More

There’s a couple of big ticket items to discuss! Topping the list is Star Wars: Episode VIII, Ava DuVernay’s projects, and some trailers from Roots and Underground.

Star Wars: Episode VIII

The biggest news of this week is the beginning of filming for Star Wars: Episode VIII! John Boyega, who just won a Rising Star BAFTA the night before filming, tweeted out this declaration Monday.

 

Other big news surrounding Episode VIII is the additional casting. Coming to the already diverse cast list are Benecio Del Toro, Laura Dern and newcomer Kelly Marie Tran, who has worked with Sarah Hyland in XOXO and has various TV credits, including TruTV’s Adam Ruins Everything and NBC’s About a Boy.  

Star Wars released this official production announcement, which is also marks the start of the Star Wars hype machine once again. 

Ava DuVernay’s film and TV projects

Ava DuVernay is doing major things right now! First, she’s working with Oprah on the OWN adaptation of Queen Sugar. The first table read happened Sunday, and DuVernay chronicled it on Twitter:

Also, DuVernay is in contention to direct two films: the film adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (a very creepy book, if you ask me), and Intelligent Life, a sci-fi thriller potentially starring Lupita Nyong’o. The latter film is what’s exciting me the most, since black women in sci-fi is still a revolutionary thing to see (Nyong’o also’s got her sci-fi scorecard filled up thanks to Star Wars, but even in that, she’s simply voicing a character, not appearing as herself on screen, something a lot of viewers took issue with). But all of this directorial news is encouraging, given the #OscarsSoWhite climate we’re in. DuVernay’s upcoming jobs are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to Hollywood fixing its diversity-behind-the-camera problems, but her opportunities do show that 1) Hollywood can act responsibly when it feels like it; it’s ineffectiveness is just mostly due to laziness and status-quo thinking over anything and 2) that the talent of people of color (in this case, women of color) can and will be recognized, despite the fractured systems that were created to keep them out and on the sidelines.

Roots and Underground

The trailers for History’s Roots remake and WGN’s upcoming slave series Underground have left me impressed, and I’m sure you’ll be just as impressed by them as well. Below are the trailers as well as the Underground first look. On a shallow note: Kunta Kinte’s turbans are my favorite things ever. Roots premieres Memorial Day; Underground premieres March 9.

(Read about my EW Community articles about the original Roots and the upcoming Underground here and here!)

The Danish Girl

If you loved The Danish Girl, it’s coming to DVD/Blu-ray March 1. If you want to rewatch it even earlier than that, the digital download will be available Feb. 16.

Here are the pertinent deets via Universal Pictures’ press release:

With love comes the courage to be yourself in The Danish Girl, coming to Digital HD onFebruary 16, 2016, and Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand on March 1, 2016, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Inspired by the lives of Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener, the remarkable love story is “a cinematic landmark,” according to Variety’s Peter Debruge. The Danish Girl on Blu-rayand DVD comes with an exclusive behind-the-scenes featurette about the making of the film. The Focus Features release is nominated for four Academy Awards® including Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne), Best Supporting Actress (Alicia Vikander), Best Costume Design (Paco Delgado), and Best Production Design (Production Designer, Eve Stewart; Set Decorator, Michael Standish).

Academy Award® winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) and Academy Award® nominee Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) star for Academy Award®-winning director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech and Les Misérables). In the 1920s, a strong and loving marriage evolves as Gerda Wegener (Vikander) supports Lili Elbe (Redmayne) during her journey as a transgender woman. Through the other, each of them finds the courage to be who they are at heart. “Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander are sensational!” declares Access Hollywood’s Scott Mantz, while Debruge of Variety raves, “Redmayne gives the greatest performance of his career.”

Also starring Ben Whishaw (Skyfall), Sebastian Koch (Homeland), Amber Heard (Zombieland), and Matthias Schoenaerts (Far from the Madding Crowd), The Danish Girl is a moving and sensitive portrait that Lou Lumenick of The New York Post calls “a remarkable and timely story.”

BLU-RAYTM AND DVD BONUS FEATURE:

  • The Making of The Danish Girl – Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Tom Hooper, and others on the filmmaking team share some of the creative processes that enhanced the beauty of the movie.

Want to read more about diverse entertainment? Read the February issue of COLOR BLOCK Magazine!
 

Casting News:

Zhang Ziyi to Star in ‘East/West’ Comedy for Universal

American Gods Author Neil Gaiman on Why Casting The 100s Ricky Whittle as Shadow Is So Vital 

Idris Elba in Talks for the Lead in The Mountain Between Us

John Ridley’s ABC Pilot ‘Presence’ Casts Marcus Anderson

Archie Panjabi to Star in ABC Anthology Drama ‘The Jury’

Other News:

How a Bruce Lee Origin Tale Is Taking Flight With Chinese Money and Abundant Diplomacy

Sundance Fights Tide With Films Like ‘The Birth of a Nation’

The Magicians’ Arjun Gupta on Hollywood Diversity and Penny’s Portrayal in the 4th Episode

What do you think of these stories? Give your comments below!

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Diverse Film Alert: “Suicide Squad,” “Birth of a Nation” + More

With so much news surrounding diverse films and a lack of credit given to them, it seems prudent to revive my once-regular series of posts showing off films featuring diversity. So without further ado, let’s get into it. There will be videos, press releases, and other stuff, so just take everything in as best as you can.

Suicide Squad:

Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong:

In this sparkling romance, Ruby (Jamie Chung), a Chinese American toy designer from LA, visits Hong Kong for the first time on business. Finding herself stranded, she meets Josh (Bryan Greenberg), an American expat who shows her the city. Meandering through nighttime streets pulsing with energy and possibility, they fall into a winding and carefree conversation, buoyed by an undeniable attraction. As effervescent as a perfect first date, Emily Ting’s charming directorial debut takes full advantage of the chemistry of its leads, the playfulness of their exchanges, and the magical landscape that is Hong Kong at night. ALREADY TOMORROW IN HONG KONG is written and directed by Emily Ting and produced by Ting and Sophia Shek.

Produced By: Sophia Shek & Emily Ting
Written & Directed By: Emily Ting
Starring: Jamie Chung and Bryan Greenberg
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures

Imperial Dreams:

The Birth of a Nation (plus several other films, including Southside with You, As You Are, Tallulah, and others)

Presenting the world premieres of 16 narrative feature films, the Dramatic Competition offers Festivalgoers a first look at groundbreaking new voices in American independent film.

Posted by Sundance Film Festival on Friday, December 18, 2015

First Look at Nate Parker’s Nat Turner Film ‘The Birth of a Nation’ (Shadow and Act)

Ip Man 3:

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Starring: MIKE TYSON & DONNIE YEN (upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story)

Directed by: WILSON YIP (Ip Man, Ip Man 2)

Action Directed by: YUEN WOO-PING (Kill Bill, The Matrix, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)

Donnie Yen ignites the screen in a return to his iconic role of Ip Man, the real-life Wing Chun Kung Fu master who mentored Bruce Lee. In this explosive third installment of the blockbuster martial arts series, when a band of brutal gangsters led by a crooked property developer (Mike Tyson) make a play to take over the city, Master Ip is forced to take a stand. Fists will fly as some of the most incredible fight scenes ever filmed play out on the big screen in this soon-to-be classic of the genre.

Persona Non Grata:

‘Japanese Schindler’Who Saved 6000 Lives During World War II Finally Gets A Movie

Under the Shadow:

Sundance 2016: Netflix Picks Up Streaming Rights to Iranian Horror Movie ‘Under the Shadow’

Keanu (Red band trailer):

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