In 1999, Nate Parker was accused of raping a woman. In 2012, his alleged victim, who testified that she had tried to kill herself twice after the assault, took her own life. In 2019, the Venice Film Festival gave a standing ovation and an award to Parker’s movie glamorizing a terrorist attack on a police station.
The Venice Film Festival has always been a sewer where Eurotrash effluent and Hollywood slime back up into Venice’s disgusting canals. Last year’s Venice Film Festival had seen a “Weinstein is Innocent” t-shirt. Polanski, a Venice Film Festival regular wasn’t there, because he feared being extradited to the United States over his rape of a 13-year-old girl. And this time, Weinstein, who had spearheaded a campaign to get Polanski off the hook when he was nearly extradited from Zurich, can no longer count on the support of Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Julian Schnabel, and Darren Aronofsky.
Well, maybe Woody Allen.
There were no “Polanski is Innocent” t-shirts on display when the infamous director skyped in to avoid the long arm of the American law. But, Venice went one better by giving him the Grand Jury Prize.
Like Parker, Polanski also got a standing ovation.
“The history of art is full of artists who committed crimes but we have continued to admire their works of art and the same is true of Polanski,” Alberto Barbera, the festival’s director insisted.
Barbera compared Polanski to Caravaggio. An important point in Caravaggio’s defense is that he died in 1610. It’s one thing to admire the work of an artist who died four hundred years ago, and another to continue promoting the work of a living predator whose alleged targets had included models and actresses whom he had gained access to because of his role in the film industry.
But at Venice, the mythology of European cinema with its parties and payouts is all that matters.
Last year, Moritz de Hadeln, the festival’s former director, had defended Harvey Weinstein by arguing that, “no one has done as much for European cinema.”
If the Venetian house of European cinema is built on Harvey Weinstein, maybe it deserves to sink.
But what of Nate Parker, whose latest black nationalist screed, American Skin, was widely panned by even leftist critics? American Skin depicts a black father whose son has been shot by police, storming a police station and putting the officers on trial at gunpoint. Critics had few problems with glamorizing Black Lives Matter violence against police officers, despite the murder of five police officers in Dallas by Micah X. Johnson, a black nationalist, and Gavin Long’s murder of three police officers in Baton Rouge.
Instead, they took issue with Parker’s acting, the technical execution and its general terribleness.
But at Venice, American Skin’s depiction of a black nationalist assault on a police station, got a standing ovation from Polanski and Weinstein’s fan club. Parker was praised by Spike Lee, the movie’s producer, who had helped him break out with a role in Red Hook Summer the year his accuser committed suicide.
And American Skin won the Filming Italy Award for Best Film despite not actually being filmed in Italy.
But geography, like consent and the age of the girls you assault, is often a technicality in Venice where the canals run with sewage and the film festivals with slime who give sewage a run for its money.
What little there is of American Skin’s “Italian” heritage comes from Tarak Ben Ammar, the Tunisian Muslim who controls Italian film distributor Eagle Pictures.
Tarak Ben Ammar was there alongside Parker and Spike Lee when the latter insisted that, “we’ve got to move forward.” That’s something that the dead woman whom Parker allegedly raped is unable to do.
“My hope is that I can make more films that speak to times that need attention in a way that inspires people to do better,” Nate Parker told reporters. “Gun violence needs attention in our country… what happened to the indigenous people in America, we need to know more about it and have an opinion about it. The plight of women globally – there are so many stories that have not been told.”
It’s much easier to talk about the plight of women globally, than the plight of women locally.
After the accusations began coming out, Harvey Weinstein also urgently wanted to talk about gun violence. “I am going to need a place to channel that anger, so I’ve decided that I’m going to give the NRA my full attention,” the alleged rapist had declared in his statement.
While rattling off his list of politically correct talking points, Parker left out the one story that he is truly qualified to tell. Not the plight of women globally, but the plight of one particular woman. Not the story of gun violence, but of his own violence. And that’s the one story that he has no interest in telling.
Spike Lee implied that Parker had unfairly lost out on an Oscar for a previous movie because of racial bias in handling accusations against black and white Hollywood figures accused of sexual misconduct. But Weinstein and Polanski are also out at the Academy Awards. Like Parker, they’re still popular in Europe.
“We have to assume facts: One, he was acquitted and is innocent. Two, he’s a great film director,” Tarak Ben Ammar insisted.
Spike Lee began ranting about President Trump. “I hope people register to vote because this guy has got to go. He has done many evil things but one thing that has really struck me is infants being torn out of the arms of their mothers.”
The suicide of Parker’s alleged victim had left her ten-year-old son without a mother.
Spike Lee, Nate Parker and the rest of the gang at the Venice Film Festival, couldn’t care less.
Instead, Parker and Polanski cynically make movies about racial injustice in order to wrap themselves in the cloak of an unearned martyrdom. Polanski is not a victim because he’s unable to hear the cheers of the Venice Film Festival audience in person. And despite Parker’s insistence on playing oppressed men driven to the breaking point, his film office boasts an address near the Woodland Hills Country Club.
American Skin’s reception at the Venice Film Festival does tell a story. Not about racism, but about its uses. It’s not just a story about Venice, but about the entire movie industry whose moguls and directors tell the stories of underdogs while bullying, terrorizing, raping and assaulting real-life underdogs.
The movie industry’s value system is a narrative invented by predators who want to seem like heroes.
Hollywood heroes are always fighting injustice in front of the camera because the industry’s figures believe that holding them accountable for the crimes they commit is an injustice. They’re always rebelling against social norms because the industry doesn’t believe in norms that restrict their appetites. They’re always leading the battle against bigotry, sexism and homophobia because the attacks on the morality of the country provide them with cover for their own horrifying crimes against everyone.
These truths are not as obvious as they are at the Venice Film Festival. But they ought to be.