The American Film Institute’s Conservatory has canceled a screening of “Birth of a Nation” and a Q&A with filmmaker Nate Parker that was scheduled to take place on Friday at the school’s opening day for second year fellows.
The decision is reportedly in response to concerns over the subject of the film, which tells the story of Nat Turner, who led a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831.
It also comes in the wake of a scandal involving Parker, after a 1999 rape accusation resurfaced during promotion of the Sundance Film Festival breakout hit.
“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,” AFI dean Jan Schuette said in a memo to fellows on Tuesday, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “Next week, we will be scheduling a special moderated discussion so we may explore these issues together as artists and audience.”
Fox Searchlight will provide the film for a screening later in the year.
Instead of “Birth,” AFI fellows will see a screening of “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” which is directed by Edward Zwick, who is a member of the board.
An unearthed 1999 rape case involving Parker, “Birth” co-writer Jean McGianni Celestin and a female student at Penn State University has recently marred the publicity drive for the film.
Parker was acquitted of sexual assault in 2001, and the charges against Celestin were eventually dropped. But that hasn’t quelled the media outrage over the case — especially in light of news that the accuser died in 2012 of an apparent suicide.
The AFI screening was set to be Parker’s first event since the story resurfaced earlier this month. The filmmaker has since issued a lengthy Facebook post in which he said, “While I maintain my innocence that the encounter was unambiguously consensual, there are things more important than the law.”
The AFI did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
The Hollywood Reporter first reported this news.