Nate Parker was living the Hollywood dream. The 39-year-old’s directorial debut, a Nate Turner biopic called Birth of a Nation, came roaring out of Sundance with major awards, serious Oscar momentum, and a record $17.5 million sale to Fox Searchlight.
Parker’s labor of love hit at just the right time, capturing the Black Lives Matter and #OscarsSoWhite zeitgeist, and the sky was now the limit for the young filmmaker.
And then the witch hunting puritans arrived…
In 1999, when he was a 19-year-old attending Penn State University on a wrestling scholarship, Parker and his friend Jean Celestin (who co-wrote Birth) were accused of raping a drunk woman. Parker was charged and acquitted. Celestin was convicted but that conviction was eventually overturned when the accuser refused to testify during a retrial granted on the grounds Celestin had not received adequate counsel.
In 2012, the alleged victim committed suicide.
But I want to go back to the word acquitted.
Parker was acquitted of the crime.
But that didn’t stop the witch hunters in the Social Justice crowd from forming a mob that sought to destroy Parker’s career, to annihilate everything he worked for, that sought to blacklist him out of the business.
Although this happened two decades ago, although Parker was acquitted, although Parker has not been accused of anything since and now has a wife and five daughters, the mob didn’t care. They wanted a scalp. They wanted to make an example. They wanted to prove they had the power to do both. So Parker’s reputation was lynched, his movie was barely released, and Oscar voters publicly bragged about refusing to watch a movie directed by a black man acquitted by a jury nearly 20 years earlier.
Naturally, our gutless entertainment media joined the mob.
I’m no Nate Parker fan. I actually have no opinion of him either way. I haven’t even seen Birth of a Nation. But you either believe in the presumption of innocence or you don’t. You either believe in second chances, or you don’t. You’re either an American or you’re a fascist bully.
For the last three years, I had assumed the bad guys won. Birth of a Nation disappeared and so did Parker.
Well, there is good news. Below the radar, and with the help of Spike Lee, Parker has been making American Skin and it has just been selected by the prestigious Venice Film Festival.
American Skin sounds dreadful — “a black Iraq War veteran seeking justice for the shooting death of his teenage son by a white police officer” — but that’s not the point…
I may not agree Parker’s politics or Spike Lee’s politics — in fact, I might find their politics appalling, but who wants to live in a country where your entire career can be derailed after you have been acquitted of something?
Spike Lee did the right thing standing up Parker, standing up to these hideous wokesters, and I salute him for that.