Iconic actor Harry Belafonte spoke out about the revelation of Nate Parker’s rape trial, and he is curious about the timing. Parker directed, wrote, produced and starred in the upcoming “The Birth of a Nation.” The film follows Nat Turner as he leads enslaved Africans in a revolt for freedom. But the 17-year-old rape allegations overshadowed the historical movie’s content.
The 89-year-old Belafonte told the Associated Press he was unsure of the facts surrounding the case.
“I don’t know what the truth is,” he said.
Atlanta Black Star reported a jury acquitted Parker of rape charges in a 1999 lawsuit by his accuser. He and his “Nation” co-writer Jean Celestin were students at Pennsylvania State University when the trial occurred. The jury found Celestin guilty at first. But when the woman refused to testify in a retrial, a judge overturned the verdict.
Last week, the accuser’s brother revealed she committed suicide in 2012.
Still, Belafonte thinks there is something odd about the resurfaced case.
“It’s interesting because it’s coming out the same time the film’s coming out,” he told the AP about the movie’s Oct. 7 release. “Of all the stories you can tell, why are you telling this story? And if he was somebody who had committed a crime and got away with it, but he faced the justice system.”
“The fact that [the system] may have screwed up, the fact that it didn’t really take care of justice, the fact that he should have been punished or whatever is history,” the activist continued. “The fact is that he was confronted and then he did go through the process. Why are you bringing this up now? What has he done that requires this kind of animus?”
“The Birth of a Nation” earned praise after its turn at the Sundance Film Festival in January. It caused Fox Searchlight to buy the movie for a record-breaking $17.5 million.
Belafonte believes the allegations point to a greater issue — the future challenges Black filmmakers will face when it comes to telling African-American stories.
“Is this going to be the price that young Black women and men pay for making films of substance?” he asked the AP. “Are they going to dig in and get dirt instead of fruit? What are we doing here?”
But users bashed the actor’s response on Twitter.
Mochagirl73 called Belafonte a “rape apologist.”
— Mochagirl73 (@ghanyathomas) August 24, 2016
Yukio Stachan brought up late actress Eartha Kitt’s story about Belafonte’s view of Black women.
Can someone ask Harry Belafonte to comment about what he said to Eartha Kitt about black women? pic.twitter.com/Dk6pO56n9i
— Yukio Strachan (@boldandworthy) August 24, 2016
Peter Oduwole expressed pain over the Hollywood icon’s stance.
My feelings are very hurt over Harry Belafonte's comments on Nate Parker. I get nobody is infallible but goddamn.
— Peter Oduwole (@itsottwall) August 24, 2016
While @sixmyths tried to explain why Parker “requires this kind of animus.”
"What has he done that requires this kind of animus?" – Nate Parker raped someone, Harry Belafonte. And then she killed herself.
— Lauren The Tactician (@sixmyths) August 24, 2016
And C.A. Huggins deemed the actor not “woke enough.”
— C.A. Huggins (@C_A_Huggins) August 24, 2016