Actor / director Nate Parker is not one to shy away from tough subject matter when it comes to filmmaking.
His 2016 feature debut The Birth of a Nation which he wrote, directed and starred followed the life of enslaved preacher Nat Turner who led a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831. Now the father of five is tackling police brutality and race relations with his latest film American Skin.
HipHollywood caught up with Parker to discuss the genesis of the project and partnering with cinematic legend Spike Lee.
While it may seem the film, slated to release January 15, was created in response to the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Parker revealed it was actually written a year prior, following a conversation with his nephew.
“I made this the beginning of 2019. So this is pre George Floyd, pre-everything,” he explained. “And I took custody of my nephew when he was 13, and brought him from Virginia to [Los Angeles] and put him in a school that was in a very nice part of town, and thought to myself, ‘Hey, now he can live his life uninhibited. And then Michael Brown got killed, and he comes to me and says, ‘What do I do if I get pulled over on my bike?”
It was then that Parker got the vision for American Skin. In the film he plays war veteran Lincoln “Linc” Jefferson who seeks justice when police kill his unarmed son during a routine traffic stop. Parker enlisted a phenomenal cast to help him tell the story including Omari Hardwick, Beau Knapp, Theo Rossi and Shane Paul McGhie, who plays a young filmmaker following Lincoln in hopes of making a documentary for a film festival.
“I played with the idea of casting all unknowns and making it feel truly like a documentary, like found footage,” he revealed. “But when the script got done, I ultimately felt like this is what we dream of as artists, to be a part of something that can have a true impact.”
Parker also felt the need to share the project with one of his mentors, legendary director Spike Lee.
“When I first finished the film, he was the very first person that had eyes on it,” said Parker explaining the he met with Lee in New York the same day it was announced that the officers who killed Eric Garner would not be charged.
“And so I showed him … and when it was done, he turned to me, in his Spike Lee way, and he said, ‘Let’s go. I’m with you, whatever you need for me, whatever, I got you. The world needs to see this film.'”
Lee, who is an executive producer on the project, accompanied Parker to the Venice Film Festival in September 2019 where the film got a standing ovation. Now almost two years later, Parker feels like the release is all part of God’s plan.
“God is the architect, I really believe that,” he said. “And I honestly believe that when we are obedient to what we think our calling is, then we will find ourselves in more situations that feel like perfect timing.”