Should filmmaker's past be factored into movie reviews? Gire says no

  • Nate Parker, the director, screenwriter and star of "The Birth of a Nation," said he was "falsely accused" in a 17-year-old rape case that has surrounded his film.

    Nate Parker, the director, screenwriter and star of "The Birth of a Nation," said he was "falsely accused" in a 17-year-old rape case that has surrounded his film. Associated Press

 
 
Posted10/6/2016 6:00 AM

'Filmmaker' critics?

By now, most people who follow movies know that in 1999 "The Birth of a Nation" director/writer/star Nate Parker was accused of raping an 18-year-old classmate at Penn State University.

 

A trial acquitted him, but found his roommate (and future "The Birth of a Nation" co-writer) Jean Celestin guilty of sexual assault in the same case. Another court overturned his conviction. The coed who brought charges against the two committed suicide in 2012.

The rape case has been a cloud over Parker's emergence as a major new talent on the filmmaking scene.

This begs the question: Should critics consider the backgrounds of the creative talents when evaluating the quality of their movies?

In a word: No.

Audiences are free to boycott a film because they want to take a stand against a filmmaker's past or an actor's offensive comments. Film critics, however, review films, not the personal lives of those who make them. In that case, we'd be called "filmmaker critics." Of course, critics can utilize a filmmaker's background in examining how it shaped or influenced elements in his/her movie.

But to downgrade or upgrade a critical assessment of a motion picture based on the personal conduct of its director or star would be silly and hardly fair to all the other people whose talents and skills went into the creation of a movie.

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Should critics minimize movies made by actor Charles S. Dutton because he served a prison term for killing a man in a fight?

Should critics dismiss the works of Alfred Hitchcock because he destroyed the career of star Tippi Hedren reportedly because she refused to sleep with him?

Should we slam the works of Woody Allen and Roman Polanski because of their sex scandals?

Maybe some writers would. But then, they could hardly be referred to as "film critics," could they?

Flickering 'City Lights'

The Elgin Symphony Orchestra has something special to offer hard-core movie buffs Oct. 7 through 9: Charlie Chaplin's silent film masterpiece "City Lights" accompanied by the ESO, led by conductor Stephen Squires. Popcorn provided by Mama Lee's Gourmet Popcorn. Admission starts at $30. Call (847) 888-4000 or go to elginsymphony.org for tickets and schedules.

Robert Englund returns as the original Freddy Krueger in Wes Craven's "Nightmare on Elm Street," coming to the Elk Grove Theatre.
Robert Englund returns as the original Freddy Krueger in Wes Craven's "Nightmare on Elm Street," coming to the Elk Grove Theatre.
Recurring 'Nightmare'

The Chicago Film Critics Association presents a special showing of Wes Craven's classic horror tale "A Nightmare On Elm Street" at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, at the Elk Grove Theatre, 1050 Arlington Heights Road, Elk Grove Village. The movie will be hosted by CFCA member Patrick Bromley, who will lead a post-show discussion about the late Craven, a former Wheaton resident. Admission costs $6. Go to chicagofilmcritics.org or classiccinemas.com.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Call it 'Sheer Genius'

Dann and Raymond's Movie Club presents "Geniuses: The Select Few," a special program dedicated to movie geniuses at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, 500 N. Dunton Ave., Arlington Heights.

Free admission! Film clips and short biographical films on 14 of cinema's best and brightest.

The program is presented in conjunction with the library's 2016 One Book, One Village program, dedicated to writer Eric Weiner and his book "The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World's Most Creative Places, from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley." Weiner will appear at the library Nov. 3. Go to ahml.info.

• Dann Gire's column runs Friday in Time out!

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