The screening, scheduled for Friday at the AFI, was to be
followed by a question and answer session with director Nate
Parker in what would have been Parker's first public event since
it emerged last week that the accuser in his 1999 rape trial and
acquittal committed suicide in 2012.
Parker, 36, was little known before writing, directing and
starring in the film which wowed audiences at the Sundance Film
Festival in January and was seen as a strong 2017 Oscar
contender. It tells the story of Nat Turner, who led a slave
rebellion in Virginia in 1831.
Movie studio Fox Searchlight has said it stands by the movie,
which will get its international premiere at the Toronto Film
Festival in September, despite speculation in Hollywood that the
rape case will affect the film's marketing and jeopardize Oscar
The AFI said that its dean, Jan Schuette, told students on
Tuesday that the Friday screening had been postponed until an
unspecified date because of the "many different passionate
points of view about the screening" he had received.
"I believe it is essential that we discuss these issues together
- messenger and message, gender, race and more - before we see
the film," Schuette wrote in a message to students.
Although Parker said last week that the 1999 incident was "a
very painful moment in my life," details of the case have set
off a fierce debate in Hollywood, the black community and among
women's groups about whether it is possible to separate art from
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Civil rights activist Al Sharpton and singer Harry Belafonte have
defended the film, suggesting some sections of the media are using
the rape case to discredit a powerful story about slave resistance.
The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday quoted some members of the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which votes for the
Oscars, as saying the film had become problematic.
"The Birth of a Nation" is scheduled to open in U.S. movie theaters
on Oct. 7. Oscar nominations are announced on Jan. 24.
The film shares a title with the 1915 D.W. Griffith epic drama, but
is a very different story and is told from an African-American
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis)
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