A new film by Nate Parker is being backed by Spike Lee in what could be an effort to help Parker surge forward as he remains dogged by former rape accusations at a time when the conversation around consent and sexual assault is at a peak.
On Monday, Parker dropped the trailer for his latest film “American Skin.” But social media responses expressed surprise that it was executive produced by the award-winning filmmaker. The film also stars Omari Hardwick, Vanessa Bell Calloway and Theo Rossi.
Lee also shared a poster for the movie on Instagram, signaling that the movie will be released in 2021.
“American Skin” centers on the use of revenge killing in light of a tragic event that claimed the life of a young Black teen. Parker plays a grief-stricken janitor and ex-marine who seeks blood for payment at the local police station after his son is fatally shot by police during a traffic stop. Prior to the trailer’s release, critics released unfavorable reviews.
Parker as a man and filmmaker has become a polarizing figure due to past rape allegations and his initial refusal to find a semblance of remorse.
Some social media users argued that Parker is contributing to the painful conversation of police violence that is particular to Black families.
Parker said he was inspired to create commentary on the incessant murder of Black people at the hands of police after the killing of Mike Brown. It is much in the same vein of Lee, who said he was inspired to create “BlacKkKlansmen” after the Charlottesville riots where white supremacists waged terror on the local community, resulting in the death of a white activist named Heather Heyer.
Lee and Parker share parallels within their rise in Hollywood. Both deem themselves activists and commentators on the horrors of systemic racism. But they also clumsily attempt commentary in their films, at times void of accountability or acceptance to constructive criticism.
“BlacKkKlansman” was dedicated to Heyer’s memory, which was understood by Black communities but also warranted a healthy dialogue on why Lee decided to focus the coda of the movie there. Lee has been called to the carpet about his portrayals of Black women in his films that have often made statements around the spectrum of sexuality for Black women while sometimes framing women characters as one-dimensional. In particular, these claims were made in regards to “She Hate Me” and “Girl 6.”
In 2016, rape allegations came to light where Parker and “Birth of A Nation” co-writer Jean Celestin were accused of raping a white female student during their time at Penn State University in 1999. The claims were made around the release of the film, which centered on the slave uprising organized by Nat Turner and was Parker’s big screen directorial debut.
Celestin was convicted of sexual assault but was granted a new trial in 2005. However, the case never returned to court after the victim refused to testify. In 2012, the unidentified woman committed suicide.
The details of the case spurred conversation around race and consent. Parker’s initial reaction to the rape claims which were viewed as flippant and self-righteous. He later apologized but not without sustainable damage. Gabrielle Union, a victim of sexual assault who appeared in “Birth Of A Nation,” was one of the most prominent voices who hoped Parker would assign himself some accountability.
Twitter user @MalikeThaElite described the complications around Parker as a celebrity and his take on issues that are pertinent to Black communities through the usage of art.
Lee’s participation in “American Skin” could be seen as championing of Parker, telling a tale of second chances and who is actually allowed to thrive in Hollywood if the right people are in your corner. “BlacKkKlansmen” scored Lee his first Oscar, undoubtedly securing him a seat in the hierarchy of Hollywood after years of his work being shunned.
Now Lee seems to be using his privilege to help Parker’s latest effort thrive, based on the throes of pain all too familiar to Black communities burned by continual racial injustice.