ENTERTAINMENT

Gabrielle Union Gets Why People Boycotted 'Birth Of A Nation'

"Every victim or survivor, I believe you. I support you. I support you if you don’t want to see the film."
"Birth of a Nation" actress Gabrielle Union on Sept. 21 in Los Angeles.
"Birth of a Nation" actress Gabrielle Union on Sept. 21 in Los Angeles.

Once critically acclaimed, “Birth of a Nation” flopped in its opening weekend following months of controversy surrounding the college rape accusations tied to director Nate Parker. 

And star Gabrielle Union understands why people decided against seeing the film, which is based on the true events of an 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner. 

“As a rape survivor and as an advocate, I cannot shy away from this responsibility because the conversation got difficult,” the actress, who was raped at gunpoint at age 19, says in the new issue of Essence. “I don’t want to put myself above anyone’s pain or triggers. Every victim or survivor, I believe you. I support you. I support you if you don’t want to see the film. I absolutely understand and respect that. I can’t sell the film ... We [the cast] are okay if you have to sit this one out, and we’re okay if you don’t.”

Union also penned an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times about the allegations that was published in September. 

“On that night, 17-odd years ago, did Nate have his date’s consent? It’s very possible he thought he did,” she wrote. “Yet by his own admission he did not have verbal affirmation; and even if she never said ‘no,’ silence certainly does not equal ‘yes.’ Although it’s often difficult to read and understand body language, the fact that some individuals interpret the absence of a ‘no’ as a ‘yes’ is problematic at least, criminal at worst. That’s why education on this issue is so vital.”

Nate Parker and Gabrielle Union on Jan. 25 in Park City, Utah, at the Sundance Film Festival.
Nate Parker and Gabrielle Union on Jan. 25 in Park City, Utah, at the Sundance Film Festival.

Parker and his “Birth of a Nation” co-writer Jean Celestin, who was also his roommate at Penn State, are accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student in their apartment after a night of drinking in 1999. Parker was cleared of charges on the grounds that he and the victim had previously had consensual sex. Celestin was sentenced to six months in prison, but was granted a mistrial during his appeal because the victim refused to testify again.

Court transcripts alleged Parker and Celestin harassed the victim, who committed suicide in 2012. Documents also reveal a damning phone call in which Parker tells her: “It started happening and you didn’t stop it, you know what I mean?”

Parker was criticized for his response to questions regarding the rape allegations in the months leading up to the film. In a September interview with “60 Minutes,” he said he would not apologize, adding that he was “falsely accused” and ultimately “vindicated.”

Fox Searchlight bought the rights to “Birth of a Nation” for $17.5 million in January. Last weekend, the film earned a dismal $7.1 million at the box office, The New York Times reported. 

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