A week ago, Nate Parker’s The Birth Of A Nation conspicuously was left off the list of films getting a press conference at the Toronto Film Festival, though its distributor Fox Searchlight said Parker would be available for questions during a press junket. Today, the studio said as part of the press junket there will be a press conference as well. So Parker will face reporters to talk about his Sundance sensation and likely field questions about a 1999 rape charge against Parker and the film’s co-creator Jean McGianni Celestin when the two were in college.
On August 26, a TIFF spokesman had told Deadline emphatically that there would be no Parker presser for Birth, saying, “That’s definitive, it’s definitely not going to happen.” Today, Fox Searchlight said that there will be “a press conference as part of the press junket” at the festival. Semantics.
It will take place on September 11, and Parker will be joined by cast members Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Gabrielle Union and Penelope Anne Miller. Fox Searchlight said last week that Parker would be doing press junkets at Toronto on the 10th and 11th, and now a video junket is set for September 10, also including the cast members.
Parker is supposed to present the film at colleges and elsewhere after Toronto, but the TIFF screening had promised to be his first open session with the press since the old charges resurfaced. Parker was acquitted of the charge in 2001; Celestin initially was convicted, but that was overturned on appeal and his case was not retried. The rape victim subsequently committed suicide after being harassed and going through a stressful trial.
Last week, AFI canceled a planned screening of The Birth Of A Nation that was to be followed by a Q&A with Parker. “I have been the recipient of many different passionate points of view about the screening,” AFI dean Jan Schuette wrote in a note to students, “and I believe it is essential that we discuss these issues together — messenger and message, gender, race and more — before we see the film.” He added that AFI will set up “a special moderated discussion so we may explore these issues together as artists and audience.”
TIFF will be holding 10 press conferences but screening 296 feature films.