Looking to make a comeback, director Nate Parker was in contrition mode Sunday at the Venice Film Festival, admitting that he had been â€œtone deafâ€ in his past remarks regarding the rape charge he faced as a college student.
â€œThe last three years have been such a learning experience for me,â€ he said at a press conference on the Lido for his new film, the police-brutality drama â€œAmerican Skin.â€ â€œI feel like I have gained so much wisdom from people in my circle,â€ he added.
More from Variety
â€œThree years ago I was pretty tone deaf to the realities of certain situations that were happening in the climate. And Iâ€™ve had a lot of time to think about that, and Iâ€™ve learned a lot from it,â€ he said. â€œAnd being tone deaf, there were a lot of people that were hurt in my response, in the way I approached things. I apologize to those people.â€
Parker made a splash in 2016 with his debut film, â€œThe Birth of a Nation,â€ which was snapped up by Fox Searchlight in a record $17.5 million deal at Sundance but tanked at the box office. Its prospects were negatively affected when news resurfaced that Parker had been charged with rape as a college student. Although he was acquitted in that case, in 2001, his response to the situation was judged callous, especially when it emerged that his accuser later committed suicide.
â€œIâ€™ve learned, Iâ€™m continuing to learn,â€ he said Sunday. â€œIâ€™m 39 years old now. Hopefully I have a long way to go. The hope is that I can continue taking the wisdom from people who care enoughâ€¦and help me to be introspective about where I am and what Iâ€™ve been through.â€
Spike Lee, who is in Venice to support Parker and the film, said that he and Parker talked about what had happened in the past. â€œHe explained to me the growth he had gone through, and also the pain, and when he said that, I said, â€˜Come on, brother. Iâ€™m with you. Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m here.â€
Lee cast Parker in a small role in his 2012 film â€œRed Hook Summer.â€ Lee called Parkerâ€™s new movie a â€œbrave tour de force.â€
Tarak Ben Ammar, who financed â€œAmerican Skinâ€ along with Mark Burg, told Variety on Sunday that he approached Parker after watching â€œThe Birth of a Nationâ€ three years ago.
â€œI called his agent right away to meet him. I told him that Iâ€™ve worked with Roman Polanski, Claude Chabrol and Jean-Jacques Annaud and that he was an auteur like them,â€ Ben Ammar said. â€œAt the time no one was calling him because of the controversyâ€ over his remarks about the rape case.
â€œWhen he talked to me about this project, he said itâ€™s a very small story with unknown actors, but when I read what he sent me, I said â€˜Letâ€™s do it. Iâ€™m in if you can make film at the same level as what you wrote,’â€ Ben Ammar said, adding: â€œGetting Spike Lee on board really put the film on the map. Heâ€™s such a great ambassador for the film, and itâ€™s so rare for a filmmaker to take another young director under his wing.â€
After Venice, â€œAmerican Skinâ€ will play at the Deauville and El Gouna festivals. A buyersâ€™ screening will be hosted on Sept. 6 in Toronto. Ben Ammarâ€™s production-distribution company Eagle Pictures will release the movie in Italy.