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Nate Parker Earns Top First-Time Director Nod From DGA for ‘Birth of a Nation’

Variety logo Variety 1/12/2017 Dave McNary
© Provided by Variety

“The Birth of Nation” director Nate Parker has received his first major awards recognition from the Directors Guild of America with a nomination for top first-time director.

The DGA also nominated Garth Davis for “Lion” on Thursday for its first-time director award along with Tim Miller for “Deadpool,” Kelly Fremon Craig for “Edge of Seventeen,” and Dan Trachtenberg for “10 Cloverfield Lane.” Alex Garland won the inaugural first-time director award last year for “Ex Machina.”

The winners will be announced at 69th Annual DGA Awards on Feb. 4 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Parker had been expected to be a key element in the current awards season after “The Birth of a Nation” debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and won Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. “Birth of a Nation” was sold to Fox Searchlight for a record $17.5 million.

But controversy hit Parker in August as details emerged over a 1999 case in which Parker and his friend, Jean Celestin, were charged with raping an 18-year old, who claimed she was unconscious after drinking heavily. Parker was acquitted of the rape charges in 2001, but Celestin was found guilty of sexual assault.

Variety broke the news that the unidentified victim had killed herself in 2012 after swallowing nearly 200 sleeping pills. In a Facebook post, Parker said he was “devastated” by the news of her death, while maintaining his innocence.

Parker produced, directed from his own script — on which he shares story credit with Celestin — along with starring as Nat Turner.

Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Penelope Ann Miller and Gabrielle Union also star in “The Birth of a Nation,” which centers on the 1831 slave revolt in Virginia in 1831. The movie, which had an $8.5 million budget, had grossed $15.9 million domestically since its Oct. 7 release.

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