Rape acquittal row sidestepped at Birth Of A Nation premiere


Controversial slave revolt drama The Birth Of A Nation received a low-key premiere at the BFI London Film Festival today.

The screening came after recent focus on director Nate Parker's acquittal at a rape trial in 2001.

Nate, who also stars in the film as enslaved baptist preacher Nat Turner, and cast members Gabrielle Union, Chike Okonkwo and Armie Hammer only posed for photographs at the premiere and did not give interviews.

Nate Parker Birth Of A Nation premiere
Nate Parker (Ian West/PA)

The film, about the most successful slave rebellion in American history, was a sensation in January at the Sundance Film Festival, where it sold to Fox Searchlight for a reported 17.5 million dollars (£14 million) - the highest price paid for a film at the festival.

However, it has faltered at the US box office, where it opened in sixth place at the weekend amid renewed scrutiny of the allegations against Nate, who was accused of rape in 1999 while a student at Penn State University.

It later emerged the student who made the accusation killed herself in 2012.

Gabrielle Union Birth Of A Nation
Gabrielle Union (Ian West/PA)

In Los Angeles, a group of anti-rape activists held a candlelight vigil on the eve of the US release of the film on Friday.

The organisation F*** Rape Culture held a silent sit-in outside the Arclight Hollywood cinema.

Chike Okonkwo Birth Of A Nation
Chike Okonkwo (Ian West/PA)

Nate maintained he had consensual sex with the woman and recently told US news show 60 Minutes that he was falsely accused. He added: "I don't feel guilty."

His college room-mate Jean McGianni Celestin, who co-wrote the film, was also accused of assault and successfully appealed against his conviction.

Armie Hammer Birth Of A Nation
Armie Hammer (Ian West/PA)

Gabrielle joined Nate at the premiere, despite writing in a Los Angeles Times essay in September that she felt "a state of stomach-churning confusion", and that she could not take the allegations against him lightly.

In the same essay, Gabrielle said she had been raped at gunpoint 24 years ago.

Gabrielle Union and Chike Okonkwo Birth Of A Nation
Gabrielle and Chike at the premiere (Ian West/PA)

The Birth Of A Nation will be released in UK cinemas on January 20.