The Birth of a Nation star and director Nate Parker has launched a new film school at east Texas-based HBCU Wiley College. Officials at the school, located in Marshall, made the announcement Sunday.
Parker co-starred in the Denzel Washington-directed film The Great Debaters. The movie featured debaters from the historically Black university Wiley College during the height of racial tension and lynching in the 1930s. The Great Debaters documented their victory over Harvard College. However, in real life, the team faced the University of Southern California.
Parker said he hopes the film school will inspire other Black filmmakers to make movies that challenge the status quo in Hollywood.
“The hope is that we cover all aspects of filmmaking, from sound, lighting and cinematography, to just studying film specifically with the cultural component and the history of film,” Parker said in an interview with The Root.
Thrilled to announce the Birth of the @NateParker School of Film and Drama at @WileyCollege launching Fall 2016. Cultivating #NewVoices
— Nate Parker (@NateParker) March 20, 2016
“You control the moving picture, you control the masses. So really getting them rallied around the idea of re-claiming the narrative of America, specifically through the eyes of people of color,” Parker said.
On Sunday, the school announced that the first classes for the Nate Parker School of Film and Drama will be held in the fall. In the meantime, the school will host 30 high school and college students for a nine-day summer institute as a pilot program for the school. Wiley College has recruited 10 seniors to work as staff at the institute this summer.
Parker reportedly kept in touch with the school after filming The Great Debaters from 2006 to 2007. He also used the Wiley College a capella choir for the soundtrack of his Sundance hit, The Birth of a Nation.
This news comes days after Will and Jada Pinkett Smith announced their $30,000 donation to NYU’s undergraduate film program. Pinkett Smith was at the epicenter of a diversity crisis in Hollywood when she asked for a boycott of the Oscars, which added fuel to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.
Parker’s announcement and the Smiths’ donation now carries even greater cultural significance after the Oscars.