Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Birth of a Nation

   I finished watching Birth of a Nation (1915)  last night and I don't even know what to think of it other than I appreciate the fact that for its time it was an epic with its recreation of civil war battles, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, etc. But, at the same time it was quite racist, absolutely filled with propaganda about African Americans.

  They were portrayed as your typical southern uneducated slave in the 19th century speaking in bad southern grammar just as if it came out of the dialogue in Huckleberry Finn. Also, they were portrayed as destructive members of society who only want to terrorize white women and take revenge on whites after the civil war by killing them and oppressing whites the way they had been oppressed. And to top it all off it shows the creation of the KKK and has them riding on their horses, in white hoods and all, to stop the "black tyrants" who have taken over their southern society. The black face makeup used on white actors throughout the film is also pretty ridiculous.

     D.W. Griffith directed the film which immediately became controversial for glorifying the Ku Klux Klan as heroes of  America. This guy definitely had some huge balls to go through with it. It starred Lillian Gish who was very beautiful throughout the movie as well as the stunning Miriam Cooper. Mae Marsh and Henry B. Walthall also star in the film. Miriam Cooper was very captivating with her solemn stares and delicate gestures. Lillian Gish was also wonderful despite how preposterous the plot was. You'll have to watch it yourself and see what you think.

                                              This is the kind of bullshit I was talking about.

                                                      Lillian Gish

                                       NAACP members protesting a screening of the film in 1947.

                                               D.W. Griffith

1 comment:

  1. Wow, thanks for your review of this..."historic" film and for recognizing the ridiculousness of it all. As an African-American Classical film scholar,this has been one of the most painful films I've ever had to watch. Feel free to visit my blog and see my review on a film called Jeanne Eagels.
    Even in 1957,racism in film doesn't end. Sadly. BTW, adore your blog! Ta!