LOS ANGELES Jan 12 Nate Parker's historical
slavery drama was a surprise inclusion among the Directors Guild
of America's nominations on Thursday, after the early awards
frontrunner was derailed by a decade-old lawsuit involving a
rape charge against the filmmaker.
Parker was one of the five nominated filmmakers in the
outstanding directorial achievement for a first-time feature
film category, the only major awards recognition "Birth of a
Nation" has received so far.
In the main category for outstanding directorial achievement
in a feature film, five awards-season frontrunners were
nominated. The Directors Guild picks often go on to score Oscar
Damien Chazelle, nominated for romantic musical "La La
Land," will contend alongside Barry Jenkins for his intimate
drama "Moonlight," Davis' "Lion," Kenneth Lonergan for the drama
"Manchester by the Sea" and Denis Villeneuve for his poetic
alien film "Arrival."
"Birth of a Nation," the Fox Searchlight film about a 19th
century slave rebellion, is written, directed, produced and
stars Parker, and was seen as a strong Oscar contender for its
diverse cast until reports of the 1999 lawsuit, of which Parker
was acquitted, surfaced last year.
Parker addressed the case in interviews and on Facebook,
saying he was devastated to learn that his female accuser had
taken her own life in 2012, but he said he would not apologize
over the case, instead asking people to look beyond it and focus
on the film.
Despite Fox Searchlight standing behind the film and
campaigning for awards, the movie has failed to land recognition
until now. It is unlikely to factor into the Oscars nominations,
announced later this month.
Parker was nominated alongside Garth Davis for adoption
drama "Lion," Kelly Fremon Craig for teen coming-of-age tale
"The Edge of Seventeen," Tim Miller for raunchy superhero action
"Deadpool" and Dan Trachtenberg for sci-fi thriller "10
The winners of both categories will be announced at a dinner
ceremony on Feb. 4 in Beverly Hills.
"La La Land," about two struggling artists falling in love
against the backdrop of Hollywood, has emerged as the film to
beat this year, sweeping last week's Golden Globes with seven
wins including best comedy/musical film. It also leads Britain's
BAFTA awards with 11 nods.
Notable snubs this year include Martin Scorsese for his 19th
century missionary tale "Silence," Denzel Washington in family
drama "Fences," Mel Gibson for war drama "Hacksaw Ridge" and Tom
Ford for stylistic thriller "Nocturnal Animals."
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Alan Crosby)