Parker wrote, directed, and stars in the film on the slave revolt led by Nat Turner, which sold for a record $17.5 million at Sundance. Anticipation for the film had been strong, until recently.
The release of explicit details from Parkers 1999 rape trial — in which he was acquitted of all charges — quieted the film buzz, and Sharpton questions the timing of it all.
“I want answers,” Sharpton told the New York Daily News. “I’m suspicious.”
Though Parker’s story has never been hidden (the case appears on his Wikipedia page), Sharpton can’t shake his skepticism. “The timing and the standard is my concern,” he said.
Seventeen years ago, Parker and his Birth of a Nation co-writer, Jean Celestine, were accused of raping a fellow Penn State student. While Parker was cleared of wrong-doing and transferred to another college, Celestine was sentenced to six-months in jail, but won a mistrial on appeal after the accuser refused to testify a second time.
Since both men were eventually cleared in court, Sharpton doesn’t understand why Parker’s career should be suffer adding, “If a person is accused of a crime and is acquitted, are we now saying they should not be considered for an Oscar?”
Parker, a now 36-year-old married father of five, recently addressed the case in during two interviews. and a Facebook post after it was revealed that his accuser committed suicide in 2012.
In his Facebook statement from last Tuesday (Aug. 16), Parker expressed “sorrow” over the suicide, but reasserted his innocence.
“While I maintain my innocence that the encounter was unambiguously consensual, there are things more important than the law,” Parker wrote. “There is morality; no one who calls himself a man of faith should even be in that situation. As a 36-year-old father of daughters and person of faith, I look back on that time as a teenager and can say without hesitation that I should have used more wisdom.”