In the wake of Nate Parker's 1999 rape case resurfacing ahead of the theatrical release of his film, The Birth of a Nation, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs has weighed in on the controversy, imploring people to watch the film despite Parker's "personal issue."
Speaking with TMZ on Thursday, Boone Isaacs said that "people need to see this movie," in response to the American Film Institute's Tuesday decision to cancel its screening of the film on Friday. While Boone Isaacs said she hasn't seen the film herself, she cites "the conversation that has gone on since Sundance [Film Festival]" — where Fox Searchlight acquired the film for a record-breaking $17.5 million — as evidence for its importance.
"I know just by the conversation that has gone on since Sundance that it's clearly a movie that filmgoers should go and see," she said.
But some feel Parker's "personal issue" merits hesitancy. The filmmaker was accused of rape along with Birth of a Nation co-writer Jean McGianni Celestin while both were students at Penn State University. Their accuser died by suicide in 2012. The grim details of the case have made it difficult for other Academy members to separate the film from its creator.
"Personally, I find it really hard to separate the man from the film when he wrote, directed and starred in it," Academy member Marcia Nasatir told the Hollywood Reporter. "Do I want to see a movie from someone who has committed an assault against a woman and who I do not think recognizes his guilt? Right now, based on what I've read, I would not go to the movie."