On this week’s episode of the Code Switch podcast, Karen Grigsby Bates sat down with some folks to talk about the upcoming film The Birth of a Nation, and a recently resurfaced, 17-year-old sexual assault case against Nate Parker, the movie’s highly lauded newcomer director.
Parker was acquitted of all charges, but details of the case, which you can read about here, left a lot people with lingering questions. Goldie Taylor, Gillian White, and Michael Arceneaux all joined in on Wednesday’s discussion. Afterwards, Gene Demby reflected about what this new attention on Parker’s past might mean for potential viewers:
“The controversy changed the tenor of the conversation around Nation, a film whose performance and reception Parker had been eager to render in stark, moral terms. ‘If this film wins awards, but people see the film and behaviors don’t change, than we have lost,’ he told an audience earlier this summer. ‘This must not be a film that comes and goes.’
As many have pointed out, the fact of Parker’s acquittal doesn’t necessarily absolve him the way he and his supporters might like, especially at a time when black folks in particular are fighting to draw attention to serious flaws in the criminal justice system. Parker’s film also includes a graphic gang rape scene, further complicating age-old questions about the ethics of consuming art when the artist is accused of terrible things.”
Early this morning, Goldie Taylor wrote that despite reservations, she will be supporting the film when it comes out. Michael Arceneaux will not. Others are still undecided, and there’s plenty more to discuss. So today, at 2pm EST, Gene Demby will lead a Code Switch Twitter chat to get at some of those remaining questions. We want to know what questions you still have, and how you’re thinking through all this.