The group 'F**k Rape Culture' - which consists of artists, filmmakers, and women in Hollywood - staged a silent sit-in outside of a local screening of Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation.
The protest was staged ahead of the film's US opening this weekend; in response to the controversy surrounding a 1999 trial in which Nate Parker and Jean Celestin (who co-wrote The Birth of a Nation) were accused of raping an 18-year-old woman while unconscious, when studying at Penn State.
Parker was acquitted in 2000, though Celestin was found guilty and sentenced to six months in prison, later appealing the verdict in a second trial which was thrown out due to the victim's inability to testify again. It emerged over summer that the woman at the centre of the case had repeatedly attempted to commit suicide in the weeks and months following her accusation, later dying in 2012 at age 30.
A statement from 'F**k Rape Culture' reads, "We recognize the need to hold space for those celebrating the advancement of people of color in Hollywood while continuing to fight for the victims of sexual assault and rape around the world." Around 50 people gathered for the two-hour sit-in, which was conducted in complete silence.
"The goal tonight is to show that there is space in Hollywood to both celebrate a film that has incredible for promise for people of color advancing in Hollywood while simultaneously creating space for those that wish to honor victims of rape and sexual assault," 'F**k Rape Culture' founder Remy Holwick told Variety. "Rape has been in the news for the last year in a way that it’s deserved for a long time, but hasn’t had the exposure that it should have."
"There is a really big problem with the way rape is portrayed in film," added model/writer Elyse Cizek. "I have a problem with it being portrayed in the way that it was [ in The Birth of a Nation] written the way that it was, with an actress having to depict that happen to her, who also happened to be a survivor; and all of that done under the cloud of history, that’s a problem for me, for it not to be brought up or talked about. I want to start that dialogue."
Distributor Fox Searchlight, having paid a record $17.5 million for the film after its critically lauded debut at Sundance Film Festival, has tightly controlled the film's publicity since the controversy ignited; with the film's Toronto International Film Festival press conference growing heated under the moderator's total avoidance of questions about the scandal.
Parker recently appeared on 60 Minutes, the first interview since the scandal erupted; responding to Anderson Cooper's question on the subject with, "I don’t feel guilty.As a Christian man? Just being in that situation, yeah, sure,” he says. “I’m 36-years-old right now, and my faith is very important to me, you know, so looking back through that lens, I definitely feel like it’s not the lens I had when I was 19 years old."