Nate Parker‘s new film “American Skin” premiered at the 76th Venice International Film Festival on Aug. 31, and it also had its first showing at the Deauville Film Festival in France on Monday.
While the film has created a lot of buzz as being Parker’s grand return to the big screen, it has also received poor reviews from American critics who attended the Venice festival.
“American Skin” tells the story of Lincoln Jefferson (Parker), an ex-marine-turned-custodian, and his 14-year-old son who gets killed by a white police officer. The officer eventually gets off scot-free without facing trial or consequence.
Outraged, Jefferson takes matters into his own hands and holds an entire police station hostage and uses inmates as the jury in a mock trial.
“American Skin” won the Filming Italy Award for Best Film of the Sconfini Section. Parker also received a standing ovation at the premiere, however, the same praise didn’t extend with the American audience.
“[I don’t] care what people say about me, what they think about me,” said Parker on Monday in France.
“My only job is reflect society. Sometimes that reflection isn’t an image people want to see, but I’m an artist so I try to stay away. I’m not here to make a headline,” added the filmmaker with tears in his eyes.
“American Skin” is the first film Parker has released since 2016’s “Birth of a Nation,” which was about rebel slave Nat Turner. The movie received early Oscar buzz, but that changed after the details of Parker’s 1999 rape case resurfaced.
He was a sophomore at Penn State University when he, his roommate and wrestling teammate were charged. Parker was acquitted and his accuser committed suicide in 2012.
During the press run for “Birth of a Nation,” Parker was accused of being defensive when asked about the case. It’s something he apologized for at the Venice Film Festival and said he was “Tone Deaf” at the time.
During his more recent interview in France, Parker explained why he made a film based on racial tensions and police brutality, which he said had to do with growing up in Virginia.
“Virginia was one of the most destructive slave states … A lot of that trauma is passed down. We try to pretend that racism is something that can only be achieved by the Ku Klux Klan or Nazis, but that’s not true – racism is everywhere,” said Parker.
“[We] have a long way to go with racism, and a long way to go with sexism and gender inequality and xenophobia, and we realize this everyday when we look up at the news.” he added. “I don’t have all the answers. I’m an imperfect man. I’m just trying to use my art as a platform to add a little to the conversation.”
Parker also said Spike Lee, who’s been helping him promote “American Skin,” was “very emotional” after viewing it.
“He said, ‘Thirty years ago I made a film, ‘Do the Right Thing,’ and it was based on a real person [Michael Stewart] who was choked by the police, and it paid homage to that and put a spotlight on that in my film,” Parker explained. “Thirty years later I watch this film that’s asking us to deal [with] racism and police violence in America.’”