Sunday, July 08, 2007

"The Birth of a Nation" (1915)

This film, directed by D W Griffith, is based on the novel, "The Clansman" by Thomas Dixon, that portrays the Klu Klux Klan in a heroic light.

You can't imagine how difficult it was to watch this movie. The blantant racism was difficult to stomach as well as the running time. At over three hours I needed to watch this in two installments.

It tells the story of the Civil War, the fight between North and South and what's called Reconstrution. I suppose the reason this film is on the 1001 Movies to watch Before you Die list is the technical innovations pioneered in its creation. And it was also very popular. It was the most lucrative film in history, making $10 million, until Snow White came along.

The film was as boring as "Wings", the first film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. As well, this film reinterprets history in a way I've never seen before. If students were forced to watch this and take it as historical fact, they might grow up with a twisted idea of the Civil War.

The film has the South at the mercy of freed African Americans who won't let whites vote and subsequently vote in their own people. Legislators are then shown eating chicken and taking their shoes off in session. They then pass a law making it legal to marry white women (why this would be a goal I have no idea). Also, most of the African American actors are played by white men, as it was supposedly Hollywood custom that any male actor coming into contact with a white actress had to be played by a white male.

I once read a quote that sums this 'custom' up perfectly. It says, "the past is like a foreign country, they do things differently there." For the life of me I can't imagine why that would be a custom. I do undertand that racism was still rampant back then. The Civil War was only 50 years old. And while I know that racism still exists today, I can't imagine how much worse it would have been back then.

I don't think I would recommend the movie other than to see and understand how propoganda can affect people. This movie was apparently responsible for reviving the Klu Klux Klan.

Rating: 1.5/5

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