Entertainment

'We gotta wrap up': Nate Parker TIFF interview cut off after rape controversy raised

A CBC reporter's sit-down interview with controversy-stricken director Nate Parker was cut short Saturday after Parker was asked about the 17-year-old rape allegations surrounding him.

TIFF marked first major public screening of Parker's movie since controversy broke

CBC's Eli Glasner asks The Birth of a Nation director if controversy about his past actions has devalued upcoming film 0:33

CBC reporter's sit-down interview with controversy-stricken director Nate Parker was cut short Saturday after Parker was asked about the 17-year-old rape allegations surrounding him.

Parker, whose film The Birth of a Nation is part of the Toronto International Film Festival, has been facing questions about a rape charge brought against him while studying at Penn State in 1999. Parker was acquitted in 2001.

When CBC's Eli Glasner asked about the allegation and the impact it will have on the film, Parker brushed it off opting to talk about the film — which he also co-wrote, co-produced and stars in — and its festival reception.

"The film screened last night. Film screened at Sundance … so many hours put into it. So much love put into it," he said.

When Glasner asked a variation of the allegation question for a third time, he was told the interview was over.

TIFF marked the first major public screening of Parker's movie, a drama about Nat Turner's 1831 slave rebellion, since the controversy broke. The crowd at Friday's TIFF premiere was receptive, giving it a standing ovation.

Film's actress vocal about allegations

Parker has always maintained his innocence and expressed sorrow last month when he learned the woman he was accused of assaulting committed suicide four years ago. He addressed it publicly during a screening of the film at the Merge Summit in Los Angeles last month.

"The way I treated women, objectified women — my manhood was defined by how many women I could be with. I was a dog. I was wrong," he said.

Gabrielle Union, who plays one of the slaves in the film, has been very vocal about the incident.

In an op-ed column for the Los Angeles Times, Union wrote she was raped at gunpoint decades ago. In the film her character is sexually assaulted. She writes she "took this part to talk about sexual violence" and says it "opens up the conversation."

She was just as frank when she spoke to Glasner at TIFF on Saturday.

The Birth of a Nation star tells CBC some good can come of addressing director's controversial past 1:56

"Some say controversy and a distraction. I say 'Thank you for the opportunity. Let's have this very uncomfortable discussion,'" she said.

"Let's expand the movement so everyone understands that there's a space and place in the movement for our issues."