Actor to Open Film School at Wiley College

Actor Nate Parker
Nate Parker, speaking at Wiley College, the home of The Great Debaters
Nate Parker, speaking at Wiley College, the home of The Great Debaters

By Frederick H. Lowe

Actor, director, producer and writer Nate Parker has announced that he will open a school for film and drama this fall at Wiley College, a Historically Black College, in Marshall, Texas.

“Thrilled to announce the launch of a new film and drama school,” Parker tweeted Sunday after Wiley College officials announced the news. Parker serves on Wiley College’s board of directors.

The facility will be called The Nate Parker School of Film and Drama and classes are scheduled to begin this fall. Thirty high school and college students will participate in a nine-day summer program. Wiley College seniors have been selected to join the school’s staff.

“The hope is that we will cover all aspects of filmmaking from sound, lighting and cinematography, to just studying film specifically with the cultural component and the history of film,” he said.

The new endeavor comes after Parker wrote, directed and starred in “The Birth of a Nation,” a highly acclaimed movie screened at the Sundance Film Festival. “The Birth of a Nation,” a film about a slave rebellion, won the Grand Jury and Audience Award Prizes among Dramatic competition at the 10-day festival.

“The Birth of a Nation” is a strange name for a African-American film because it is the same as D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film that praised the rise of the Klu Klux Klan, a white terrorist group.

Blacks in Chicago prevented the 1915 film from being shown in the city, but President Woodrow Wilson, a southerner, screened it at the White House.

Parker’s film is considered by some to be an ironic tribute to Griffith’s.

Parker has appeared in the films “Beyond the Lights,” “Red Tails,” about the Tuskegee Airmen, “The Secret Lives of Bees,” “Arbitrage,” and “The Great Debaters,” a 2007 movie director by two-time Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington and produced by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions. The film used Wiley College as its backdrop and Parker played Henry Lowe.

The film portrays the Free Wiley Debate Team debating and beating Harvard University’s debate team, which did not occur. Wiley College, however, debated and beat the University of Southern California Debate Team, the nation’s top debate team.

After the end of production of “The Great Debaters,” Parker stayed in touch with Wiley College officials. He used the school’s a-capella choir to sing “The Birth of a Nation’s”

sound track.

Parker, a state champion high school wrestler in the 135 pound category, was born in Norfolk, Va., Nov. 18, 1979. He is 36.

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