‘The Birth of a Nation’ Star Gabrielle Union Understands Why People ‘Don’t Want to See the Film’

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“The Birth of a Nation” star Gabrielle Union understands why some people — particular survivors of rape — decided not to go see Nate Parker’s film when it opened last weekend.

“As a rape survivor and as an advocate, I cannot shy away from this responsibility because the conversation got difficult,” Union said in the new issue of Essence. “I don’t want to put myself above anyone’s pain or triggers. Every victim or survivor, I believe you. I support you. I support you if you don’t want to see the film. I absolutely understand and respect that. I can’t sell the film … We [the cast] are okay if you have to sit this one out, and we’re okay if you don’t.”

“The Birth of a Nation,” which tells the story of Nat Turner’s 1831 slave revolt, has been plagued with controversy as Parker’s 17-year-old sexual assault charge from his student days at Penn State University reemerged. Parker was acquitted on charges from the now-deceased accuser.

The film ultimately couldn’t live up to its initial hype last weekend, grossing only $7.1 million although initial projections saw it come in at $9 million. Fox Searchlight won a bidding war for the Sundance Jury Prize winner, shelling out a record $17.5 million for distribution rights.

This isn’t the first time Union has spoken out about the allegations against Parker. Last month, she wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, speaking out about her own harrowing experience with rape. In the piece, the actress admitted to struggling with the allegations against the director.

She shared that she was “raped at gunpoint in the cold, dark backroom of the Payless shoe store where I was working” at the age of 19.

“The Birth of a Nation” also stars Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King and Penelope Ann Miller.

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