In the last week, Nate Parker, director of Sundance Film Festival award-winning movie “The Birth of a Nation,” has been granting interviews with select press to comment on being charged with rape while a student at Penn State. It’s a charge he was acquitted of in a 2001 trial.
The news hit numerous blogs during this year’s Sundance, but the positive reviews of the movie and its purchase by Fox Searchlight for $17.5 million overshadowed it.
However, seemingly in hopes of getting in front of the story before award season (the film is an early Oscar favorite), Parker began talking about it again.
Now news has come out that the woman who accused Parker of raping her died in 2012 at the age of 30.
The brother of the woman, whose name has not been made public, has told Variety that she committed suicide and overdosed on sleeping pills.
“She became detached from reality,” the woman’s brother Johnny told Variety, asking not to use his last name. “The progression was very quick and she took her life.”
There is no evidence that the woman’s death was linked to the rape, though the woman testified in the trial that she had attempted to kill herself twice after the incident.
In 1999, Parker, a student and wrestler at Penn State, and his roommate Jean McGianni Clestin (the cowriter on “The Birth of a Nation” screenplay with Parker) were charged with raping an 18-year-old woman in their apartment after a night of drinking. Parker and Clestin have stated that the encounter was consensual, according to Variety.
Parker was acquitted of the charges, partly because of testimony that he and the female had consensual sex prior to the incident. Celestin was found guilty and sentenced to six months in prison.
Celestin appealed the verdict and was granted a new trial in 2005, but the case never went to court as the victim declined to testify again.
“I was sure it would come up,” Parker said of the rape case when talking to Deadline. “It is there, on my Wikipedia page, the Virginia Pilot … I stand here, a 36-year-old man, 17 years removed from one of the most painful … [he wells up at the memory] moments in my life. And I can imagine it was painful, for everyone. I was cleared of everything, of all charges. I’ve done a lot of living, and raised a lot of children. I’ve got five daughters and a lovely wife.“
After the trial, the woman left Penn State before graduating and received a settlement of $17,500 from the school.
“She was trying to find happiness,” Johnny told Variety. “She moved around frequently and tried to hold a job. She had a boyfriend. She gave birth to a young boy. That brought her a good bit of happiness. I think the ghosts continued to haunt her.”
"The Birth of a Nation” will open in theaters on October 7. Sources tell Variety that Fox Searchlight is now questioning if the movie can have a roadshow where Parker would speak at churches and college campuses across the country about social issues, which was a condition of the Sundance sale.
Fox Searchlight did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
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