THE BIRTH OF A NATION 1930 Sound with Trailer
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(Jan 18, 2016)
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starring Lillian Gish, Henry B. Walthall, Mae Marsh, George Siegmann, Miriam Cooper and Walter Long. Directed by D.W.Griffith. Photographed by G.W. Bitzer. In the entire history of the motion picture, no single film has been more praised and condemned than D.W. Griffith's masterpiece, The Birth of a Nation. Praised for its innovation, it's masterful direction and its powerful depiction of the American Civil War and its aftermath. Condemned for its brutal and cruel depiction of African Americans - portrayed mostly by whites in blackface - and for its glorification of the Ku Klux Klan. It is also widely believed that The Birth of a Nation was directly responsible for the sudden re-birth of the long dormant Klan.
Regardless of opinion, the effects of The Birth of a Nation on American film cannot be denied. So incredibly successful that the income it generated was beyond calculation. It made instant moguls of its investors and many Hollywood studios were built opon the profits. The Birth of a Nation forever changed the landscape of the motion picture industry.
This version, running just under two hours, is the very rare 1930 sound re-issue with music and effects personally supervised by Griffith. The DVD also contains a rare sound re-issue trailer.
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It must also be remembered that, like Wilson, this was an image many whites perceived to be true about blacks especially in the South and that it was an accurate portrayal of racial politics in 1915. It sparked off massive race riots throughout America.
The film was also the best recruitment product the KKK could ever hope for at any time in its history. Thanksgiving night, 1915 saw 25000 Klansmen parading the streets of Atlanta Georgia celebrating its opening.
It has been said that Griffith was naive when it came to political matters and Griffith, himself the son of a Confederate soldier, claimed his film was misunderstood (interesting the numbers of directors who say that when faced with massive criticism and controversy, Stanley Kubrick (Clockwork Orange), Oliver Stone (Natural Born Killers), Michael Winner (Death Wish and Death Wish 2) as examples.
Birth of a Nation highlights how the perpetuation of a racial stereotype, however misguided, can so strongly be manipulated by a powerful film.
Personally, 90 years on, I do not see that the, then, racially incorrect depiction of black people in Southern America in the aftermath of the civil war has the power to offend black people now. No one, maybe apart from twisted white supremacist groups or racist minorities with closed small minds, carries an image of black people any different than any other race.
The fact that the film is racist is in no doubt but it is just that; a film, like so many films that contain racist elements, its power to racially offend is now historic. I do not think anyone who watches Birth of a Nation is going to run along to the nearest KKK lodge donned in a white sheet and a cone on their head.
Why didn`t native Americans riot and protest when Hollywood churned out hundreds of 7th Cavalry movies depicting the native indians as murderous rapists their slaughter of which for decades was glorified.
What remains now of Birth of a Nation is a technically magnificent, sweeping, racially flawed, but highly entertaining and beautifully crafted milestone in motion picture history. It is at times moving, at times exciting it is always enthrallingly watchable.
KINO, as expected has produced another superb package. The first generation 35mm image quality with natural print damage (which seems to add to its awe) is perfect and clear. Such beautiful transfers largely inherent in KINO dvds makes watching silent movies a wonderful experience. The sound track features the original, magnificent, orchestral motion picture score recorded in superb digital stereo.
There are also an array of excellent extras and historical notes and documents making the package the best version available . One of the extras shows the scenes the New York censors cut which are all restored in the film. Highly recommended and certainly one of the greatest American films.