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137 of 147 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Version of The Birth of a Nation to Buy!
While it seems that many reviews posted on the DVD site aren't actually for this DVD, this review is specifically a review of Kino's Griffith Masterworks edition. The DVD contains the most complete version of The Birth of a Nation known and available. The film is 187 min. long on this disk. It is a beautiful print, well restored and re-tinted. A beautiful print. The...
Published on December 26, 2008 by Lynn Ellingwood

118 of 147 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This is the SHORT version
This film was one of the assigned viewings for a History of Film class. The professor specified the 180 minute version and specifically described the ending as being important to a complete analysis of the work. My bad for not checking the specifics for this edition, but be forewarned: if you want the full version, this is NOT it. This version ends with Liberation...
Published on July 18, 2004 by Rebellious Fish

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137 of 147 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Version of The Birth of a Nation to Buy!, December 26, 2008
While it seems that many reviews posted on the DVD site aren't actually for this DVD, this review is specifically a review of Kino's Griffith Masterworks edition. The DVD contains the most complete version of The Birth of a Nation known and available. The film is 187 min. long on this disk. It is a beautiful print, well restored and re-tinted. A beautiful print. The musical score is clever and very entertaining too. I think of any bad thing to say about the disk. I think most know of the story line and its hints of racism. It's there and it can't be argued away. D.W. Griffith was a son of a Civil War soldier and grew up in the South. He used the book The Clansman by Thomas Dixon Jr. as it jibed with his own viewpoints and many of the day. The hero worship of the Klan actually encouraged its resurgence in late 1910s and 1920s into the 30s. The racism brought Griffith so much grief, he spent his life trying to justify his views and created Intolerance to offset the criticism. What brings The Birth of a Nation is its reliance on story and use of the film camera never tried before in the USA before. It is a cinema powerhouse and actually a pretty moving film. Never before had Americans seen the cinema come to life before. Some French, Italian and German filmmakers created feature films that are quite good and successful, but World War I basically destroyed their film industries and the US reigned supreme. DW Griffith took American film to the next level permanently. No longer were films relegated to the poorer urban areas and Nickelodeons. It was now a popular art form and respectable to attend the cinema. The DVD also includes a making of, and introduction by DW himself made in 1930, and several early versions of his Civil War films. It seems to me that because of the closeness to the time period, the films might indicate a closer idea of how former Confederates actually thought and how they remember the war.
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Imagine it's 1915, and you're in the theater...., February 25, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Birth of a Nation [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Having read the reviews of this film in Amazon, I have four comments: 1)The best way to appreciate this movie is to imagine it's 1915 and you're in the theater.You're seeing stuff that's never been done before: close ups, an extended narrative, character development, crosscutting and all kinds of crazy things never done with a camera before. We take it for granted now: try to imagine yourself back then. 2)Of course, the sad part about this movie is that that African-Americans were little more than stereotypes (they weren't even allowed to play themselves!)But you have to remember Griffith was not unique in that respect. 3)I find it really disturbing that some reviewers would use this forum to espouse racist or nativist opinions. OK, free speech, but please... 4)Henry B. Walthall, who plays the "little colonel," appears in John Ford's 1934 "Judge Priest," where he plays a Confederate veteran.If you found him interesting in this movie, wait till you hear his speaking voice! It's a shame they didn't have sound in 1915. In sum: Worth seeing for historical content and context, but Saturday night? I don't think so!
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87 of 99 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Always Controversial, May 23, 2006
There is no need to comment further on this film because so many people have already done so. What I am troubled by are the number of people who have claimed that the movie is "only controversial to modern audiences." It should be noted that this is absolutely false. It was highly criticized at the time for being extremely racist, caused riots in several major cities, spawned movements to have it banned, and inspired African Americans to begin making films to counter its distortions. The storm of criticism was so intense that Griffith himself was personally terribly hurt and attempted the rest of his career to change the impressions people had of him because of the movie. Even President Wilson (who famously declared the movie to be "history written with lightening") had to respond to the criticism of the film by later denouncing it and its message (a fact that rarely gets mentioned when people use his quote). So let's not think that the film's message has only become controversial in our post-Civil Rights Movement age. The film sparked immediate outrage and critcism that continues to this day.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An epic silent masterpiece in a terrific DVD release!, December 24, 2003
This review is from: The Birth of a Nation (DVD)
D.W. Griffith's 1915 epic silent masterpiece "The Birth Of A Nation" gets an excellent DVD treatment by Madacy Entertainment (yes,that's right Madacy!).We all know that Madacy has produced worst quality DVD'S (ex:METROPOLIS)through the years,but "The Birth Of A Nation" is an excellent example of how a great film should be restored by such a low-budget manufacturer like Madacy has done! I originally used to own this film on VHS (also by Madacy),but now that I have this version on DVD,it's even better than the original VHS quality print! Although the film is presented entirely in black & white,it runs close to three hours (175 mins) since a few bits of scenes were cut and in its original projection speed.The musical score is also excellent which includes excerpts from classical music to even folk songs which helps the film give a period feel to it.Extras are pretty much so-so such as the trivia quiz,and also includes an interesting poster gallery which includes three different posters promoting the film during its original release and also two publicity stills.I only give this DVD four stars,not because of the film itself and also quality,but the extras could've been more entertaining like a making of the film and also production info on how this controversial and groundbreaking film was made.But nonetheless,it's a outstanding DVD and that the picture quality is sharp and crystal clear which makes it more interesting to watch! If you don't have the money to buy the Image DVD version of BOAN,I would strongly recommend this version by Madacy.You will not be dissapointed!A real must-have DVD.
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47 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Birth of Cinema, August 23, 2005
This review is from: The Birth of a Nation (DVD)
Few films have been able to spawn the amount of controversy that D W Griffith's silent epic has. `The Birth of a Nation' continues to enrage its viewers and has the dubious honour of being one of the most despised films ever made.

Every serious film buff eventually comes across `The Birth of a Nation', and the feelings that it creates are often mixed. It is the sort of film that is generally watched only by critics, film historians and those who are interested in the artistic and technical sides of cinema. These days, some people may have heard of the film, but very few have seen it. The thought of a silent film from 1915 that runs for a touch over three hours would put the majority off in an instant.

The film covers the Civil war, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the reconstruction of the South and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. D W Griffith astounded audiences with the introduction of many new filmmaking techniques that laid the groundwork for the future of cinema. Without exaggerating, practically every film made afterward must give some credit to `The Birth of a Nation'. The film is constructed and put together seamlessly and still looks amazingly fresh. It was once regarded as one of the 10 greatest films ever made, but the repercussions of the film have marred it's status. So much so that when the American Film Institute put together a list of the 100 greatest films, `The Birth of a Nation' was placed at number 44.

After its release, there were many that wanted the film banned because of the subject matter it featured. The film was accused of rewriting American history as part of the story shows the African Americans threatening to create a black empire and dominate the South, all with the support of Northern carpetbaggers. The threat is countered by the rise of the Ku Klux Klan who are credited as being the saviours of the South and bringing about political control and peace. So a major complaint was that the film was grossly inaccurate from a historical viewpoint, though there were claims by historians that argued for its authenticity.

But the main factor that caused outrage was the way that the African Americans were presented. It was a different world in 1915 though, and the film is a reflection of its time, seeing as how those views and attitudes were what many white people would have had and grew up with. Griffith no doubt would have had prejudice embedded in him from his childhood, or at least a superior attitude towards Negroes. But Griffith insisted he was not hateful toward African Americans and Lillian Gish herself backed up that claim.

The film has also been put in the same category as Nazi propaganda. That of course was not Griffith's intent, though the Ku Klux Klan have used this film to support their cause. These days, audiences are disturbed at seeing the Ku Klux Klan in a glorified manner. But the Klan that Griffith depicts was inspired by the original Klan that began in the 1860's and which had gone out of existence by 1915. They were not as hateful and evil as they were in more recent times. Although you can't condone the things they did when first formed, from a white supremacist's point of view, they would have been considered heroic.

For all the outrage and consequences the film brought on, Griffith never meant to offend anyone. And it's reasonable to conclude that if there were historical inaccuracies, Griffith either thought that what he was showing was accurate or he may have been creating parts of the story for dramatic effect. Maybe it was both. No director would knowingly make a film that would cause the amount of trouble that this did. Griffith always stated that his intentions were good and was forever apologetic about the film.

Opinions of the film will always be divided. It is very difficult for some to praise the film, but to look at it as objectively as possible, its hard not to be impressed. `The Birth of a Nation' is still so modern, so incredibly fluent and coherent. Griffith truly understood cinema and how movies really worked. He was a director who was light-years ahead of his time and has no doubt inspired countless others. How many other films can claim to have contributed so much to cinema?
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55 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding example of early cinema, January 31, 2000
This review is from: Birth of a Nation [VHS] (VHS Tape)
The Birth of a Nation remains one of the giants of motion picture making and one of the most controversial landmarks in film history. As a cinematic achievement the movie was both a stunning commercial and artistic success. No, Griffith did not create such innovations as the closeup, fade-out, irising effect, etc., but it was he under whom these devices were used so successfully and creatively.
One of the main arguments against the film is its racist portrayal of the newly freed slaves. Yes, the pre-Civil War South is overly romanticized, the movie is historically inaccurate, and the caricatures are insulting. Nevertheless, the movie is an awesome achievement, and here, viewing the definitive version of the film, restored to its full twelve-reel length at the visually correct speeds and with the original color tints and original musical score performed by a full orchestra, it is engrossing entertainment and it is easy to see why it was so influential both as a film achievement and as an opinion-molder.
The Birth of a Nation is often criticized for its racism, but the film is eigthy-five years old this year (2000), and should be viewed with that in mind. As for Griffith, there is ample evidence that Griffith did not hate blacks, but he was a product of his time and the portrayal of the newly freed slaves in the picture reflects this. No, Griffith did not view blacks as equals, but in many ways he did admire them. Yes, his attitude was undoubtedly condescending, but as I said, he was a product of his time.
I have read in many reviews of this film anger over the film's inclusion in the AFI 100 list. The film was enormously influential to the industry, and claims that someone else would have or could have achieved what Griffith achieved have no legitimate foundation. There is no way of knowing whether someone else would have achieved what Griffith achieved, and in any event, if someone would have, that does not change the fact that Griffith did it first. The film is in the interesting position of being supremely white-supremecist yet an undeniable landmark at the same time. It should be given a chance and viewed as superior picture making, and not simply as racist garbage. Such an attitude is as simple-minded as is much of the film's haracterizations and romanticizing of history and the silly wording of some of its intertitles. This, the restored and definitive edition (also available on DVD from Image Entertainment) is the ideal way to see this great cinematic masterpiece, and it is a masterpiece. Beware of inferior shortened versions at incorrect projection speeds!
A definite silent film fan, I recommend this film to anyone else who can appreciate silent drama and who can keep an open mind. Enjoying this film does not make you a racist.
(By the way, the review for this film that someone submitted on January 18, 2000 was copied word-for-word from the VideoHound Golden Movie Retriever review of this film!)
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cinema is propaganda and Birth of a Nation is Exhibit A!, November 30, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Birth of a Nation - Special Edition [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
This is a review of the Blu-ray edition, a three-disc set, two of which are in standard
definition. How does BOAN appear in Blu-ray? Nothing revelatory here. It claims to be mastered in HD from archival 35 mm elements, not newly restored. The 1993 restoration is on
disc 2 in standard definition (and full screen) It is nice to see the film in what is presumably the correct aspect ratio on blu ray. This is probably about as good as the film
is ever going to look, and it is satisfactory, considering we are dealing with a film made
almost a hundred years ago. And in one medium to long shot, I thought I could see
on the neck of the female actor who played Mammy, obviously in blackface, the point where
they forgot to make up entirely the back of her neck. The picture certainly has never looked
better on any home video medium. Whether it looks better than the standard definition
version on disc 2 is perhaps debatable.

However, the blu-ray disc is,in my judgment, marred by the decision to include a newly composed score as the only music score
option. I find it to be undistinguished for the most part. After watching the blu-ray
disc with this option several days ago, I viewed several portions of the film last night
in the standard definition format (disc 2). Here we are given the 1993 restoration of David
Shepard with a 1993 adaptation of the original score of Joseph Carl Breil. This consists
of period-specific music such as "Bonnie Blue Flag," the infamous "Dixie," "Year of Jubilo,"
and other American compositions, as well as the work of several nineteenth-century composers
(I recall hearing strands of what I believe were Rubinstein's "Ocean" Symphony as well as
a composition of Edvard Grieg). The battle scenes in the film are much more stirring when
accompanied by the period music rather than the newly minted score. That being said, on
the blu-ray disc, we are given two audio options for the new Mont Alto Orchestra score, 2.0
Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. No complaints about the sound here, simply about the lack
of the Breil score option on the blu-ray disc. This same disc includes the filmed introduction
of D.W. Griffith and Walter Huston. Here blu ray does serve to noticeably enhance the
picture from its original incarnation on a Kino standard definition edition of the film,
at least insofar as memory serves correctly--I no longer own that standard definition version.

Disc 3, also standard definition, contains Griffith's shorter Civil War films, but also
extensive documentation of "New York versus The Birth of a Nation," centered on the legal
battles to prevent its showing in New York upon its re-release in 1922. It's fascinating
material, presenting the opposing contentions that initial screenings of the film in 1915
did or did not produce riots. Thus, we are shown that not only the content of the film
but its effects on the public are controversial and in dispute. I discovered by internet
research that it is even disputed whether President Woodrow Wilson actually uttered his
famous description of the film as "history written with lightning." The section on the 1922
litigation also offers some interesting philosophical reflections on cinema's potential effects on public morality, clearly an issue that has not gone away.

This film seems to cry for a commentary on the blu-ray disc, both as to the historicity or
lack of same of some of the film's claims about historical events and as to its effects
on the public. But alas, who would give an objective commentary, could any American, living
or dead, untouched by the passions which have swirled about the film since its release,
accomplish the task? Part of the problem, of course, is that Birth of a Nation was based
on two virulent novels by Thomas Dixon, a racist if ever there was one. But there is also
the problem that Griffith seems to be expressing the synthesis, or majority view of his
generation, arising from the clash of thesis (Reconstruction) with antithesis (Southern
resistance, the Klan, etc.) Thus, he appeals to the authority of Woodrow Wilson as historian
in several of his intertitle cards to substantiate his historical claims. Moreover, he
actually celebrates the death of states' rights in another intertitle card! Upon closer
examination, there may be something to offend people of all political persuasions in the film.

This film, of course, is distinguished by its almost complete lack of subtlety.
The power of its images is such that it is a legitimate question about its
effects on the viewer. Though it is a silent film, and the acting styles are quaint and
outmoded, still one has to wonder if it is really so far removed from Oliver Stone's "JFK,"
for example, another film which has been accused of manipulating history. And does not
all film manipulate in the name of artistic license? If a picture really is worth a thousand
words, isn't the motion picture viewer a thousand times more vulnerable to suggestion,
even "corruption" of his values than a reader, who at least can control the pace at which
he peruses a book or reject it more easily than the mesmerizing form of a film?

All in all, this is a release worth owning, perhaps more for the supplements on discs
2 and 3 as for the feature film in blu ray. It is not so much entertainment as it is
educational in nature, though it must be admitted that scenes in the film still retain
a power of storytelling that engendered much of the controversy over its effect on the
populace. It probably does accurately mirror the majority view of white Americans in the early
20th century, admittedly racist. I give this release four stars because of the failure to
include the Breil score option on the blu ray, a serious omission when dealing with a film
whose greatest claim to fame is its importance for the history of American and world cinema.
One wants to view such a historical film accompanied by music such as its original audiences
would have heard.

A couple of afterthoughts. I personally, as a Christian, am offended by the Klan's use
of the cross, as when they rush to the rescue of the parties trapped in the little cabin.
At the same time, I realize that such use in the picture probably reflects a historical
reality. The point I was trying to make about a commentary is that it would take a very
brave man indeed to do a full and complete commentary on this film, subject as he would
be to possible vituperation from many different quarters. If, as I believe, all cinema
worthy of the name has a point of view and is therefore propaganda in some sense, this
one at least has the merit that it is overt and blatant and not concealed. That may not
make it any the less dangerous. Finally, a review on another website suggests that
the Mont Alto score on the blu-ray disc is indeed the original score played with the
movie when it first appeared. If that is the case, then the information on the packaging
provided by Kino is misleading, since it calls the Breil score the "original." Finally,
I have never purchased a disc that was as difficult to extract from its cardboard slipcase
as this one. I was almost on the point of cutting it open with scissors when I finally
managed to pull it out. Subsequent attempts to pull the discs out were just as arduous,
with the result that I am now shelving the discs in the plastic container without the
cardboard slipcase.
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118 of 147 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This is the SHORT version, July 18, 2004
Rebellious Fish (Avondale Estates, GA United States) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Birth of a Nation (DVD)
This film was one of the assigned viewings for a History of Film class. The professor specified the 180 minute version and specifically described the ending as being important to a complete analysis of the work. My bad for not checking the specifics for this edition, but be forewarned: if you want the full version, this is NOT it. This version ends with Liberation. Several other key scenes appear to have been edited out.
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145 of 182 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History Written with Lightning (Woodrow Wilson), December 5, 2001
Rivkah Maccaby "Rivkah Maccaby" (Bloomington, IN United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Birth of a Nation [VHS] (VHS Tape)
The Birth of a Nation is uniquely important to the history of cinema. The Birth of a Nation was the Birth of film as an independent medium, no longer just an off-shoot of theatre. Before The Birth of a Nation, films were shot from the proscenium perspective. Even the much touted Great Train Robbery was a flat film, the galloping horse scene being no more really than a running proscenium, and the rest of the film a stage set of a single car, with two actors, and all the train's riches in that one car.
In making The Birth of a Nation, D.W. Griffith scrapped the proscenium entirely. Most of the film was shot from one of the character's point of view. The rest of the film was shot from a bird's eye view. Griffith, an original thinker, put the camera on a cherry picker.
Scenes in The Birth of a Nation follow actors through a house, shows reaction shots, close ups of hands, of props. Characters read letters, then the camera shows the letter, the actor's face in reaction, the intertitle, then the letter again. Nothing like this had been done before.
This is the historical importance of The Birth of a Nation. It won't be obvious to people in the 21st century who are not students of film, and some people may not find witnessing a slice of film history enough to spend four hours in front of the TV.
However, this is a very effective film. The trick is getting a good print of it. If you have choice among different editions, choose the longest. You have the best chance of getting enough footage included to have a complete story, and a film that will be shown at the correct speed. Silent films of this vintage were shot at a different speed than sound films, which is why they so often look jerky and too fast when they are shown on an ordinary sound projector.
Amazon offers eight or nine different prints of this film on video. They are of varying prices, and varying run times: I found run times of 124min., 125min., 158min., 159min., 190min., and 207min. although the prices don't increase incrementally with run time, the 207min. version is the most expensive. It's also listed as Black & White and Color, which makes me suspect some of the original tinting may have been restored. Spend the money for the 207min. version. (I'll confess: I own an 8mm print.)
Is the film racist? Yes; in fact, if you go to the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C. when there is a film memorabilia display, you can see a contemporaneous letter to Griffith from another film director asking Griffith to explain the racist overtones in the film. Griffith never answered the letter.
Personally, I think Griffith explains himself well enough in his title at the opening of the film, when he writes of accepting responsibility and placing blame where it belongs.
But the racism in the film is not in the triumphal ride of the KKK at the end of the film. This scene may look magnificent, and is a great piece of filmmaking: the reports that it inspired young men to join the KKK are doubtless true. However, the clan did occasionally have, for lack of a better word, "celebrations" like this, and Griffith is allowed to show it on film if he wants to. The fact is that the ride is integral to the plot, but some people in attempt to tone down the racism have, when showing the film, cut a scene that makes clear what terrible thing the clansmen have done just before the ride.
The Cameron family, a Southern family with fathers and sons on the rebel side, also have two daughters. One of the daughters, Flora, the cherished baby of the family, is stalked and attacked by a recently freed black man (the typical accusation of the clan). This is this crime that causes the clan to first take the law into its own hands in the Cameron's town. Representative clansmen let the Camerons know this, and of the coming triumphal parade through the town. The Camerons, less than pleased with vigilante justice, refuse to endorse the march. This isn't going to look so good, since Flora Cameron is their raison d'être, and all. So the clansmen forcibly subdue and kidnap the Cameron's other daughter, Margaret, and sit her on the horse along with the clansman at the head of the March.
The camera films the triumphal march from the front, with pathetic Margaret Cameron, looking half dead, half off the saddle, held tightly by the actor on the lead horse.
So both the "uppity" blacks and the clansmen are not so different; each has appropriated a Cameron woman to its own purpose.
Griffith's ultimate point, now that I'm finally getting to it, is to show the South in total disarray after the war. Newly freed black people are not getting their forty acres and a mule; they're not receiving education.
Whether blacks ran amok in Restoration South or not is a question for historians; in the world of this film, they are running amok, because the North has broken all its promises to see to it that they are given the means to function as free people. The North has further broken its promises to help the South to rebuild.
Griffith is saying that the after-war problems of the South, answered by vigilante justice, are not the result of Southerners being of weaker character than Northerners, but trace their pedigree to the bad faith of the North.
That choosing to make this point using racist stereotypes, and playing people's fears is a good approach to making his point is certainly debatable; if for no other reason, it is certainly the reason that the film has trouble finding viewers today. But really... is it worse than Gone with the Wind?
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deeply upsetting, and absolutely worth it, June 22, 2009
shaxper (Lakewood, OH) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Birth of a Nation (DVD)
It is often suggested that the only way to appreciate D.W. Griffith's masterfully executed romanticism of the Klu Klux Klan is to separate his art from its incredibly disturbing messages. After all, what begins as a seemingly tame but slightly offensive retelling of the Civil War slowly gives way to depictions of freed African Americans abducting and/or attempting to rape nearly every woman in the film while staging a coupe to create a new "Black South," all while backed by their complacent and foolish abolitionist supporters. It's enough to make most of us sick. Still, I think there's a power in viewing such ugliness, and I believe that, when it comes to "Birth of a Nation," the misguided message is a crucial part of the film's power.

One of the comments that I hear often from people viewing this film without knowing its background is that it takes them a long while to realize there's something blatantly disturbing about its messages. The writing, camera work, and especially the acting all work hard to make us love and side with the Stoneman family at first. We actually find ourselves sympathizing with the South and their plight to remain sovereign states. We question the North's stubbornness and are truly moved as cousin is turned against cousin for the sake of foolish ideological differences. "The Little Colonel," in particular, wins us over as a figure of great virtue and nobility. We love him instantly, and the old South along with him.

Of course, all of us come to our realizations about the film's true nature, but each at different times. Some of us are offended beyond the ability to sympathize, right off the bat, by Griffith's implication that the trouble began when Africans first came to America. For many of us, though, this offense takes place far later in the film. For me, it was over an hour in when "The Little Colonel" indignantly refused to shake a freed black man's hand. Others might even take longer, perhaps not seeing a problem until "The Little Colonel" dons his full KKK attire, or until the Klan holds their own impromptu trial for a freed slave suspected of murder, and the following title card triumphantly proclaims "GUILTY!"

And there's the true point and power of the film for me. It forces us to question assumptions and opinions that we hold dear and normally never think to examine. Most of us will agree that the North was the just side in the Civil War without batting an eye, most of us believe that blacks and whites are equal, and all of us believe that slavery was wrong, yet we never truly explore these ideas. I know far too many people who hold these same ideals that you and I do, yet they shudder when a black family moves into a home on their block or when a black person wins public office in an election. They know the right ideals to preach (these ideals have been programmed into our heads since childhood), but they don't truly understand these ideals, or at least have never really thought about them.

It's for that reason that I think we need films like this one to challenge us, to almost lure us in and then force us to question our own attitudes and beliefs in reaction. We all need to look at images like the one of "The Little Colonel" shooting an unarmed black man while he's still on the ground, or the one of the KKK members standing menacingly over the cowering freed slaves attempting to vote at the election booth, and ask ourselves WHY these images are wrong and disturbing. Hopefully, the answer that follows can help us to better love our neighbors in this day and age that is still saturated with a far more subtle, hidden racism.

I hate how this film made me feel, but I savor that terrible and uncomfortable experience; I love that it shook my foundations and forced me to truly examine my belief system. Even with all of the film's lies and historical inaccuracies**, it truly challenges us and compels us to look inward. I believe we've made enough progress as a civilization that no one's going to watch this film and then go out and join the KKK (though, back in 1915, it was a different story). All of us have that moment where we realize that what we're watching is unacceptable. I think the only people who have reason to fear and hate this film are either those who have little faith in the ability of others to see through the film's misguided ideology, or those who do not want to be challenged for fear that their own idealogy isn't strong enough to stand up against it.

For the rest, this is an opportunity to strengthen our beliefs by having them attacked for once. We're all prepared to tell you why our favorite candidate is the best man/woman for the job, or why our favorite sports team is the best, because there are discussions and debates happening amongst two or more sides in those matters. No one discusses WHY racism is wrong because we all agree that it is. There's no one else to convince of this opinion, so we never bother to explain it to ourselves or to explore what it really means to believe in equality. This needs to be corrected.

Birth of a Nation is a cinematically beautiful film; well done in all but one obvious respect. Still, I don't think style, technique, and acting ability are enough to make a film great. Great art, in all its forms, challenges and transforms, and you can ask for few greater challenges than the ones brought forth in "Birth of a Nation." Don't ignore the message of this film; invite its challenges and seize the opportunity to reexamine your own beliefs in contrast. Trust that you'll come out a stronger and better person in the end.

** "The Little Colonel" loosely resembles George Gordan, a confederate soldier turned early Klan member in Pulaski, Tennessee. None of the other characters in this film (including Silas Lynch) appear to resemble any real life counterpart.
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The Birth of a Nation - Special Edition [Blu-ray]
The Birth of a Nation - Special Edition [Blu-ray] by D.W. Griffith (Blu-ray - 2011)
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