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‘Birth of a Nation’ director Nate Parker debuting new film at Venice Film Festival

Nate Parker
“The Birth of a Nation” director Nate Parker at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Nate Parker’s attempted comeback will begin at the Venice Film Festival with the premiere of his first film since a rape allegation from his past derailed the release of his Nat Turner biopic “The Birth of a Nation.”

The Venice Film Festival announced Wednesday that Parker’s “American Skin” will debut in its “Sconfini” section. Parker’s new film also carries Spike Lee’s backing. “American Skin” is touted as a Spike Lee presentation. In a statement, Lee called Parker his brother and declared the film “a brave tour de force.”

Parker has been little heard from since his breakthrough as writer-director-star in 2016. After the lauded debut of “The Birth of a Nation” at the Sundance Film Festival fetched a record $17.5 million purchase, the newfound attention around Parker resurrected a 1999 rape allegation against him from when he was a student at Penn State University.

Parker has maintained his innocence. He was acquitted in a 2001 trial, though his college roommate, Jean Celestin (who helped create “The Birth of a Nation”), initially was found guilty of sexual assault. That conviction was later overturned when the accuser declined to testify for a retrial. The alleged victim killed herself in 2012.

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“The Birth of a Nation” ultimately made little impact at the box office and its once-promising Oscar campaign fizzled. Whether the reception will be any better for Parker’s latest film remains to be seen. In the time since, the #MeToo movement has swept over the movie industry, putting new scrutiny on men accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

“American Skin,” which Parker wrote, directed and stars in, is about a black Iraq War veteran seeking justice for the shooting death of his teenage son by a white police officer. It co-stars Omari Hardwick, Theo Rossi and Beau Knapp.

The Venice Film Festival opens Aug. 28.


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