*While Director Nate Parker has spent the publicity campaign for his film “The Birth of a Nation,” either answering or dodging questions about the 17-year-old rape case in which he was acquitted, his leading lady Gabrielle Union has become the face of the slave drama, and she’s trying to re-engage the audience that might be turned off by the director’s past.
In the film, Union plays Esther, a woman who is sexually assaulted. In real life, Union has spoken out previously about being raped when she was a younger woman.
“The once victim has become the person of power in this equation,” marketing expert Rachel Weingarten, told TheWrap, adding that Union has largely replaced Parker as the spokesperson for the film. “Nate Parker has for better or worse been painted as the villain in the story, perhaps rightly so.”
READ RELATED STORY: Nate Parker Wants to Focus on ‘The Birth of a Nation’ Not Rape Controversy
Union has presented the film as part of the conversation about those oppressed by America’s corrupt systems. During the Toronto International Film Festival, she recommended the film to those who don’t understand “Black Lives Matter.” She also named Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old Black boy who was shot dead by police in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2014.
“If you are confused as to why Ryan Lochte was called a child, referred to as a kid, and was celebrated and rewarded with a ‘Dancing With the Stars’ appearance, but you’re wondering why Tamir Rice was never referred to as child, and was murdered within seconds for acting like a child? And you have a problem with that? This film is for you as well,” she told TheWrap at TIFF.
In an interview with xoNecole, Union said she respects those who choose not to see “The Birth of a Nation.”
“I understand those who may have an issue with Nate’s past and if you don’t like the way Nate is handling the present, I absolutely understand if you chose to sit the film out,” said Union. “I respect it because I would be a hypocrite if I said I hadn’t chosen not to see films that made me uncomfortable for one reason or another.”