Mel Gibson has launched to the defense of Nate Parker, insisting that the release of The Birth Of A Nation was sabotaged over the controversy regarding his 1999 rape trial, which Parker was found not guilty of.
Mel Gibson made these comments while speaking at a Hollywood Reporter event, via The Guardian, alongside filmmakers Mira Nair (Queen Of Katwe), Denzel Washington (Fences), Oliver Stone (Snowden), Damien Chazelle (La La Land), and Barry Jenkins (Moonlight). Each of these films are expected to be in awards season contention over the coming months.
During their discussion the filmmakers were asked whether or not they avoided watching The Birth Of A Nation, which, when it premiered at Sundance back in January, was expected to be just as lauded as the above efforts, because of the controversy that had surrounded Nate Parker.
This provoked Mel Gibson to insist that he found the treatment of Nate Parker a little unfair. Mel Gibson explained,
“I don’t think it’s fair. He was cleared of all that stuff [Parker was found not guilty]. And it was years ago. You have to follow the system there. I think he’s innocent of all that stuff. The fact that he has to live with that stigma, and that it affects the art he does, is unfair.”
Back in 1999, when he was a sophomore at Pennsylvania State University, Nate Parker was accused of raping a fellow student alongside his roommate and wrestling teammate Jean McGianni Celestin, who also got a story credit on The Birth Of A Nation. Nate Parker was eventually acquitted on all four counts that were brought against him during the case, while Celestin was convicted and sentenced to a six-month to one-year prison sentence. This was later raised to two to four years, but in 2005 Celestin’s initial conviction was then overturned, and the retrial was abandoned.
While Nate Parker was out promoting The Birth Of A Nation, it was revealed that the woman who accused both Jean McGianni Celestin and Parker had committed suicide in 2012. The Birth Of A Nation’s box office and critical response was believed to have been affected by this story, as it ultimately went on to gross just $15.8 million at the box office when it was released back in October.
Fox Searchlight purchased The Birth Of A Nation for $17.5 million after it screened at Sundance, and caused such a buzz that it was touted for 2017 Academy Award nominations. It has since been reported that Fox expects to lose somewhere between $5 million and $10 million on The Birth Of A Nation.
Mel Gibson was taking part in the discussion following his work as a director on the World War II epic Hacksaw Ridge, which tells the story of Desmond Doss, an American pacifist and conscientious objector that was awarded the Medal Of Honor after serving in the war without carrying a weapon or firearm.
Hacksaw Ridge was met with hugely positive reviews by critics and has so far grossed $82.3 million from just a budget of $40 million. Hacksaw Ridge has so far been named on the top 10 films of 2016 list by the American Film Institute and the National Board Of Review, while it’s also expected to be in contention for Academy Awards and Golden Globes, with Andrew Garfield expected to be recognized for his performance as Desmond Doss.
Mel Gibson himself has encountered his fair share of controversy throughout his career because of his comments regarding homosexuals back in 1991, and other remarks he made to a police officer when he was arrested in 2006 and to his girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva in 2010.
[Featured Image by SND Films]