'Birth of a Nation': Rape Activists Hold Vigil on Opening Night in L.A.

Valentina I. Valentini

Sit-in outside Arclight Hollywood Cinemas to raise awareness for victims of rape and sexual assault (Photo: Valentina Valentini/Instagram)

Activist organization Fvck Rape Culture and a consortium of artists, filmmakers, and women (and a few men) in Hollywood sat in silence Thursday night outside the Arclight Hollywood Cinemas in an attempt to bring awareness to the millions of unnamed victims of rape and sexual assault.

The candlelight sit-in vigil, announced the day before, was scheduled specifically to time with the first screenings of Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation.

Related: Nate Parker Blasts Media Coverage: ‘Are We in the Business of Headlines or Healing?’

“FRC recognizes the need to hold space for those celebrating the advancement of people of color in Hollywood while continuing to fight for the victims of sexual assault and rape around the world,” said a statement from the organization.

While the members at Thursday’s sit-in chose to participate in silence —including not talking to press — Variety was able to speak with FRC founder Remy Holwick and model/writer Elyse Cizek, who was among the estimated 50 people in attendance.

“The goal tonight is to show that there is space in Hollywood to both celebrate a film that has incredible promise for people of color advancing in Hollywood while simultaneously creating space for those that wish to honor victims of rape and sexual assault,” said Holwick.

Related: ‘Birth of a Nation’ Filmmaker Nate Parker Struggles to Take Responsibility for Past Rape Allegations

Holwick said the timing of Parker’s Birth of a Nation in proximity to the Brock Turner case was a “really important” factor in their decision.

“Rape has been in the news for the last year in a way that it’s deserved for a long time,” she said, “but hasn’t had the exposure that it should have.”

Added Cizek: “There is a really big problem with the way rape is portrayed in film. I have a problem with it being portrayed in the way that it was (in Birth of a Nation), written the way that it was, with an actress having to depict that happening to her, who also happened to be a survivor; and all of that done under the cloud of history, that’s a problem for me, for it not to be brought up or talked about. I want to start that dialogue.”

Related: Fox Searchlight Launches Voter Registration Drive for ‘Birth of a Nation’ Screenings

FRC was founded to respond to the Brock Turner case and specifically the recall for Judge Aaron Persky. This is their first action outside of the infamous Stanford case. The group said they were approached independently by a consortium of women in Hollywood asking for the event.

“We’re working on a case-by-case basis,” said Holwick. “This case sparked our interest because it represents such an interesting dynamic. Our event tonight is not meant to shame Nate Parker or shame the film.”

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