The screening of Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation earned a standing ovation at the Toronto International Film Festival Sept. 9. It marked director, star and producer Parker’s first red carpet appearance since his rape allegations resurfaced. And during the showing, he directed the attention away from the 17-year-old case.
Deadline reported Nation’s cast joined Parker, which included Aja Naomi King and Gabrielle Union. The latter actress explained her “stomach-churning confusion” over Parker’s allegations in an op-ed earlier this month.
Regardless of Union’s piece, audience members gave a lengthy applause for the historical drama. Union appeared alongside 16 other actors and producers aside from Parker and King, but she remained silent.
King, who plays Parker’s wife in Nation, explained her own awakening inspired her to take the role. She noted it was exciting to see “people that look like me standing up.”
TIFF previously postponed the movie’s screening and announced there would not be a press conference. However, Parker answered reporters’ questions after all.
When asked about the impact of Turner’s story, Parker said it was a chance “to promote the conversation we need to have about race.”
But when a reporter attempted to ask about his rape allegations, Parker remained focused on his movie.
“I’ll say this. For one, I’ve addressed this a few times, and I’m sure I’ll address it in different forums. This is a forum for the film,” he said. “This is a forum for the other people who are sitting on this stage. It’s not mine, I don’t own it. It doesn’t belong to me, so I definitely don’t want hijack it. I do want to make sure that we are honoring this film, and we’re honoring these people in front of you, before you. So respectfully, I want to say thank you again to the Toronto International Film Festival for allowing us to be here, and I want to continue celebrating the people that helped make this film possible.”
News of Parker and his film’s co-writer Jean Celestin’s alleged rape of a fellow student at Penn State in 1999 resurfaced in August. Questions arose about how critics would receive the movie surrounding the rebellion of enslaved Africans, Atlanta Black Star reported.