Local fans wait patiently in line for the Nashville premiere of controversial new film The Birth of a Nation. Photo By: Tyrie Whiteside

NASHVILLE, TN — The 10th annual International Black Film Festival (IBFF) kicked off last week, featuring a variety of events, ranging from indie film screenings, discussion panels, celebrity guests and of course plenty of parties. Among the five days of the festival, one event that stood out mostly was the special screening of Nate Parker’s controversial film, “The Birth of A Nation.” The screening took place on the campus of Belmont University in the R. Milton & Denice Johnson Center, to a capacity crowd.

The Birth of a Nation film is based on the true story of Nat Turner; an en-slaved man who led a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia in 1831. Parker who co-wrote, co-produced and directed the film, has recently been a part of some controversy when news broke of him being accused of raping a female student while attending Pennsylvania State University back in 1999.

Parker was later acquitted.

Even after the backlash from Parker’s past, the audience still relatively enjoyed the film. The theatre was full of cheers but also tears due to the graphic nature of the film, which depicted some of the horrors of what slaves had to experience in those violent and dangerous times.

Once the movie was over a panel gave their opinions on the film and spoke to the audience about the lack of diversity in Hollywood.

The panel consisted of council member-at-large Erica Gilmore, film producer Brett Dismuke, entertainment publicist Phylicia Fant, representative of the Screen Actors Guild Ruth Paul, and Hazel Joyner Smith, founder of the IBFF. Brett Dismuke who has produced many independent films, had a lot to say on the lack of diversity in Hollywood. “These are the stories that white Hollywood are comfortable telling. I’m torn. This is a dichotomous situation for a black man who works in Hollywood,” says Dismuke.

The Birth of A Nation premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival in January and was bought by Fox Searchlight Pictures for a whopping 17 million dollars, the largest deal at Sundance to date.

Dismuke addressed the tribulations further by saying, “I applaud Nate & Gabrielle for telling your story, getting your money. At the same time there’s a problem in this industry and this is why the average black love story; they don’t want to share it with the public.”