“I have been the recipient of many different passionate points of view about the screening, and I believe it is essential that we discuss these issues together – messenger and message, gender, race and more – before we see the film,” Schuette said.
He went on to explain AFI would be scheduling a special moderated discussion to “explore these issues together as artists and audience.”
Birth of a Nation – which Parker wrote, directed, produced and starred in – is a dramatization of Nat Turner’s famous 1831 slave revolt. After earning rave reviews and an unprecedented $17 million deal at the Sundance Film Festival, it was quickly considered to be an early Oscar favorite.
Last week, Variety reported that Parker’s rape accuser committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 30, shifting renewed focus on the 1999 case, in which Parker and his friend Jean McGianni Celestin were both accused of sexually assaulting a then-18-year-old female classmate at Penn State University.
Parker was charged, tried and subsequently acquitted. Celestin, who was also charged, was convicted and sentenced to six to 12 months in prison. A judge ordered a second trial following an appeal and the case was tossed out in 2005 after the accuser decided not to testify.
[IMAGE “2” “” “std” ]On Tuesday, Parker issued a lengthy statement about the case on his Facebook page. In it, he expressed the “profound sorrow” he felt after learning that his rape accuser committed suicide four years ago.
He added that while he still maintains his innocence, he looks back “on that time as a teenager and can say without hesitation that I should have used more wisdom.”
While AFI’s viewing may have been canceled, the Toronto International Film Festival announced last week that it is moving forward with plans to premiere Parker’s film next month.
“TIFF is proud to help bring Birth of a Nation and the important story it tells to audiences,” festival organizers told The Hollywood Reporter in a statement. “We will present the film as planned.”
Birth of a Nation hits theaters Oct. 7.