The 1999 Penn State rape controversy that has hounded Nate Parker over the past week and a half has resulted in a cancellation of an American Film Institute screening of The Birth of a Nation on Friday, 8.26. AFI dean Jan Schuette — himself an embattled figure due to a recent AFI staff revolt — announced the yanking late Tuesday.
The AFI screening would have been followed by a discussion with Parker, the director, writer and star of the historical drama about Nat Turner’s 1831 slave revolt. Oh, what a shitstorm that would’ve been.
The 17 year-old PSU incident, which was discussed by Parker a week and a half ago in interviews with Variety and Deadline, has all but torpedoed whatever hope BOAN had of becoming a strong award-season contender, particularly given the recent revelation that the victim in the case committed suicide four years ago.
“I have been the recipient of many different passionate points of view about the screening, and I believe it is essential that we discuss these issues together — messenger and message, gender, race and more — before we see the film,” Schuette said in a statement. “Next week, we will be scheduling a special moderated discussion so we may explore these issues together as artists and audience.”
Fox Searchlight will reportedly hold a different AFI screening of Birth later this year. The film will have a big gala premiere at the Toronto Film Festival on Friday, 9.9 — an event that is likely to be some kind of shitstorm in terms of feminist protests and placards. Parker’s film will open nationwide on 10.7.