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A Conversation with Nate Parker
“The Birth Of A Nation” 2016 Pan African Film Festival
Written by Lea Michelle Cash/Celebrity Showcase/Published 02/12/2016
It is Saturday afternoon February 6th, at the world renowned Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) in Los Angeles. The RAVE theatre is packed with standing room only. The Fire Marshall is not far away forever watching and warning the overly excited crowd of their safety presence. “Will everyone please take their seats,” says a booming loud voice from a far right corner and a hush falls over the room.
Moments later in strolls the actor Nate Parker and his team that includes renowned author and historian Dr. Gerald Horne, and film producer Preston Holmes. The audience explodes into a thunderous applause as the movie team takes their seats for an intimate conversation about “The Birth of a Nation”.
Parker, who has starred in several popular movies, (Beyond the Lights, The Secret Life of Bees & The Great Debaters) has reclaimed the story of his #1 hero, since he learned of him in college seven years ago. “In my African American history growing up, usually I was the only African American in the room.” He continues, “When I learned about Nat Turner and his contributions, the suffering and his courage. I started to look people right in the eye and say, Nat Turner is my hero.”
The movie “The Birth of a Nation” is a 2016 American biographical film about Nat Turner, the African-American slave who led a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia in 1831. The film is written, produced, and directed by Nate Parker, who also stars as Nat Turner. Parker wrote the screenplay and petitioned financiers to invest in the film. It was filmed for 27 days in the State of Georgia in May & June 2015. Along with Parker, the film features Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Penelope Ann Miller, and Gabrielle Union.
“Everyone was especially chosen for this project by me,” said Parker. Recently in January, the film premiered in competition at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. It won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. Fox Searchlight Pictures bought worldwide rights to the film in a $17.5 million deal, the largest deal at the film festival to date.
Parker stated, “As a people we do not tend to celebrate resistance. This movie is not your usually Hollywood type of thing. I am unapologetic about the solid truths in this movie. So, I knew that making this movie was going to be a journey. For two years, I put my acting career on hold and I have kissed many frogs talking with anyone who had money to finance this film. And I received negativity about committing career suicide from people who dearly love me and protect me.” Continuing Parker said, “But I embraced the film and its purpose. There is a value system that discredits a human race. If we are to tell our stories then it is going to take these three things, courage, faith and sacrifice. As Maya Angelou once said, the world gains nothing from you being small.”
The story of Nat Turner is a conflicting story with many untruths and half-truths documented about the slave who led an historic rebellion of slaves and freed black men in South Hampton, County Virginia. Parker said, “But, I did the years of research on this historical character. And from the moment I learned of him, I have always felt and known that I would play him one day. Hook or crook, I knew that I would play this role and tell his story. And this movie means to deal a massive blow to white supremacy, a healing in racism, designing and creating a new nation of thinkers.”
The PAFF established in 1992, is dedicated to the promotion of cultural understanding, racial tolerance through the exhibition of film, art, and creative expression among people of African descent. The festival showcases over one hundred fifty (150) quality new films all highlighting the diversity and complexity of people of African descent. The film and arts festival is held at the Baldwin Hill Crenshaw Plaza and RAVE Cinemas 15 from February 4-15, 2016. For more information on PAFF, including movie screening schedules and events, visit www.PAFF.org.