Filmmaker Controversy Sinks 'Birth'

late addition Oct 12--link at bottom to story with analysis
   Oct. 10, 2016—Fox Searchlight period slave drama Birth of a Nation premiered to weak box office this weekend amid acclaim, high hopes and scandal. The drama, acquired for a sizeable $17.5 million at the Sundance Film Festival, generated just $7 million in domestic box office its premiere weekend Oct 7-9 with a lackluster $2,105 per screen average.
  Birth of a Nation—about a famous 1831 slave revolt—enjoyed good timing as Hollywood agonized over complaints of few black
artists nominated for Oscars. But then a nearly-forgotten college rape charge against Birth’s creative force Nate Parker turned the movie’s buzz sour.
   “With the confluence of both #BlackLivesMatter and #OscarsSoWhite asserting that America—and specifically Hollywood—doesn’t give a damn about black people, there couldn't have been a better time for The Birth of a Nation to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this past January,” writes Whitney Friedlander on “But at the end of the day, the movie, and Nate Parker, were false saviors.”
   Fox Searchlight courted friendly press outlets and sidestepped as best it could unfavorable publicity for filmmaker Parker. Hollywood Reporter’s Kim Masters wrote that despite the distributor’s navation efforts Parker was unsympathetic, which hurt the film. In two TV appearances, Parker was not “willing or able to convey a clear and effective message of regret for long-ago mistakes or concern for his accuser, who committed suicide in 2012,” says Masters.
   The title plays off a famous 1915 racist silent film of the same name with an opposite take that denigrates blacks.
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