Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs believes that “people need to see” The Birth of a Nation regardless of the history of filmmaker Nate Parker.

Boone Isaacs spoke to TMZ on Thursday, and stated that she hasn’t seen the film, but added, “I know just by the conversation that has gone on at Sundance that it’s clearly a movie that filmgoers should go and see.”  When asked about Parker’s “presumed guilt”, she replied: “That’s one issue, that’s his personal issue. And then there’s the issue of the movie.”

In 1999, Parker and co-writer Jean Celestin were accused of rape by a female classmate. Parker was acquitted at trial while Celestin was found guilty, but his conviction was later overturned on appeal. The trial transcripts have been shared in the media in recent weeks as the Oct. 7 release of The Birth of a Nation nears, and Parker recently spoke out about the case. It also was revealed that the accuser killed herself in 2012.

The Birth of a Nation tells the story of the 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner. The unflinching portrayal of slavery’s horrors and Turner’s personal story captivated audiences at the Sundance Film Festival in January and fetched a record $17.5 million when it was sold to Fox Searchlight.  Despite the film’s success at Sundance, the backlash of Parker’s past is already starting to negatively affect the film.  On Wednesday, the American Film Institute cancelled a screening and Q&A for the film, and Parker has cancelled all press scheduled for next month’s Toronto film festival.

“The important thing is for people to see it and enjoy the film, be impressed by the film. And I think that is what is very important. People need to see this movie.” – Cheryl Boone Isaacs

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