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Last week I went to Toronto to sit down with Nate Parker and discuss his new movie The Birth of A Nation. The last time we spoke was the day before he left to start filming for this project.

He was doing press for Beyond The Lights, but you could tell his focus was on the story of Nat Turner. Nate stopped taking roles and devoted all of his time to this film. The movie went on to break records out of Sundance, but it also opened a door from Nate’s past that threatened to derail the entire venture.

Despite all the controversy surrounding Nate Parker, he still remains upbeat, positive, and proud of his work. Whether or not his reputation has taken a hit, only time will tell, but if it does, he’s not concerned at all.

“There was a moment when I thought, if someone came to me and said, ‘If you can make this and you’ll never make another film for the rest of your life, would you still do it?’ I said yes, because it’s that important,” he said. “I believe in the healing qualities in the film. I believe that when people see this film, they’ll see this period of time with a different lens. Hopefully it will inspire a different attitude towards how we might heal.”

Nate knows the backlash from his past is nothing in comparison to what his character Nat Turner had to deal with.

“I look at what he had to go through; I don’t have to walk through gallows and be stoned and lynched. Literally. That’s what he went through. He was skinned, they crushed his flesh into grease because they wanted to erase his legacy. That’s history. Making a film is just making a film, that’s it. I got it easy, when it comes to some of the things our revolutionary heroes had to go through in the past.”

As for why people should still go see this film, Nate says, “400 plus people worked on this film, it ain’t the work of just one person. Praise the Lord. If I had to do it all by myself, I’d be done anyway.”

Essentially he hopes Birth will lead to a bigger and better conversation about race:

“We are not willing to have a REAL conversation. We appropriate that feeling like this is going to be good for the conversation around race, but when are we going to have that conversation?”

The Birth Of A Nation is in theaters everywhere October 7th, 2016.

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