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Parker attends ‘Birth of a Nation’ Toronto premiere amid controversy


TORONTO Video cameras were barred from the red carpet premiere of “The Birth of a Nation” at the Toronto Film Festival, where the movie’s star and filmmaker Nate Parker smiled and greeted fans, despite recent headlines on his involvement in an old rape case.

Dressed in a black suit, Parker hopped out of a black car on to the small red carpet outside a downtown Toronto movie theater, where about five or six photographers had queued to snap the cast.

After posing for a few minutes, a jovial Parker greeted fans gathered by the theater entrance, shaking hands and waving, before returning to the carpet for more photos and heading into the venue.

Friday’s premiere is Parker’s first public event since it emerged last month that the accuser in his 1999 rape trial and acquittal committed suicide in 2012.

Parker, who did not mention the case in his red carpet appearance, is due to join the cast for interviews with journalists on Saturday, and participate in a festival news conference on Sunday.

Parker, 36, was little known before writing, directing and starring “Birth of a Nation,” which wowed audiences at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and was seen as a strong 2017 Oscar contender.

It tells the story of Nat Turner, who led a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831.

Movie studio Fox Searchlight said it stands by the movie, despite speculation in Hollywood that the rape case will affect the film’s marketing and jeopardize its Oscar chances.

Toronto Film Festival officials increased security around the venue to counter protests, but the premiere went smoothly and no protesters were in sight.

The festival stood by “Birth of a Nation,” festival director and chief executive Piers Handling told Reuters on Thursday, adding that he hoped more filmmakers of color come forward with similar stories.

“It’s a very, very good film and we invited the film before the personal issues came out around the director,’ Handling said.

“We can hardly wait for audiences here in Toronto to actually see the movie (and) judge it as a film itself.”

The audience gave the film a standing ovation, according to Twitter posts by film journalists from the Hollywood Reporter, Variety and USA Today who attended the premiere.

Parker introduced the film and participated in a moderated question-and-answer session about it, they added.

(Reporting by Fred Thornhill for Reuters Photos and Rollo Ross for Reuters TV; Writing by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/entertainment/~3/qwHVpKoVsv8/us-filmfestival-tiff-birthofanation-idUSKCN11G06J