Acclaimed Film ‘Birth Of A Nation’ Opens Amid Rape Controversy

(CBS) – The movie “Birth of a Nation,” about the man who led a slave rebellion, is set to open this week amid rave reviews.

But it’s also opening under a cloud of controversy because of its star and director, Nate Parker.

He was accused, and then acquitted, of rape. Some say Parker’s past should keep people out of movie theaters.

The 36-year-old actor says he was falsely accused in 1999 of raping a woman at Penn State with his wrestling teammate and movie co-writer, Jean Celestin.  Fifteen years after Celestin’s conviction, but his own acquittal, Parker stops short of apologizing.

Not everyone believes he needs to say he is sorry.

“Instead of vilifying one man over this moment he’s been acquitted for and maybe the movie succeeding or failing, let’s focus on the bigger issues in our society so we can fix them,” says Exavier Pope, a sports and entertainment attorney.

Sharmili Majmudar, the executive director of Rape Victim Advocates, hopes the controversy at least sparks thoughtful conversation. Pope agrees.

“This is a teaching moment for us all to pay more attention, for our campuses to pay closer attention to sexual assault,” he says.

But what about the movie – should people boycott the film?

“I think there a lot of us for whom the art is tainted by what we know of the artist,” Majmudar says.

She says she worries about this matter re-traumatizing survivors and their families.

Parker’s accuser committed suicide in 2012.

Anyone who has been a victim of or traumatized by sexual violence can call the Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline at 888-293-2080.

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