Apologetic Nate Parker returns with police violence drama 'American Skin'

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By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

VENICE, (Reuters) - Filmmaker Nate Parker apologised on Sunday for being "tone deaf" three years ago when a decades-old rape charge derailed his directorial debut, as he seeks to make a return with police violence drama "American Skin".

Parker wrote, directed and stars in the movie about an African-American father seeking justice for his teenage son killed in a stand-off with police.

He plays Linc, who agrees to a student film crew following him around and interviewing him about 14-year old Kijani's death.

Hopeful for a trial, Linc is horrified when the police officer who shot Kijani will not be charged but return to duty and decides to take matters into his own hands.

"American Skin", which premieres at the Venice Film Festival on Sunday, is Parker's first movie since 2016's "Birth of a Nation" stumbled after renewed public interest in a 1999 rape charge against the filmmaker, of which he was acquitted.

At the time, Parker addressed the case in interviews and on Facebook, saying he was devastated to learn his female accuser had taken her own life in 2012, but said he would not apologise over the case, instead asking people to look beyond it and focus on the film.

"I've learned a lot in the last three years, it's been a journey of wisdom, talking to people ... and learning more about myself," Parker told a news conference.

"The reality is I was quite tone deaf ... to a lot of the things that were happening in the climate, my response during that time, obviously hurt a lot of people, frustrated and angered a lot of people and I apologise to them. I'm still learning."

"American Skin" flips between flashbacks of Linc and Kijani together and the shooting to the present Linc seeking justice.

"There hasn't been a film that has affected me this deeply in a while," said veteran director Spike Lee who sat by Parker, explaining why he was supporting the movie.

"American Skin" is screening out of competition at the festival. Organisers have faced criticism for including it in the programme as well as "An Officer and a Spy" by Roman Polanski, who has a U.S. sex crime conviction.

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"I feel very blessed that the Venice Film Festival recognised what the film could mean for society and so graciously allowed us to be here," Parker said.

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The movie, which Parker said was shot in April, shows a clear divide between supporters of Linc and the police.

"This film is about being the bridge between those two sides, but first recognising their humanity," Parker said. "And then being on the level to talk about what they see and what they feel everyday."

Asked about the film's distribution, producer Mark Burg said: "No distributors have seen the movie yet ... The first opportunity is at tonight's screening.""It's a story that needs to be told."

Parker briefly broke down in tears when asked about his future career.

"I do have a lot of stories I want to tell because I feel like the world is broken," he said, citing gun violence and the plight of women worldwide.

"It is my prayer that I'll be able to tell more stories ... and I hope moving forward that I get that opportunity."

(Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Mark Potter)

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