This week, Zach travels back to 1915 and the silent film that started the epic  – D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation


Nearly 100 years after its initial release, THE BIRTH OF A NATION remains one of the most controversial films ever made and a landmark achievement in film history that continues to fascinate and enrage audiences. It is the epic story of two families, one northern and one southern, during and after the Civil War. D. W. Griffith’s masterful direction combines brilliant battle scenes and tender romance with a vicious portrayal of African-Americans. It was the greatest feature-length blockbuster yet to be produced in the United States and the first to be shown in the White House. After seeing it, President Woodrow Wilson remarked it was ”like writing history with lightning!” However flawed, the film made history. In cities and states across the country, it energized the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which tried to have the film banned and censored. The film also inspired African Americans to move into filmmaking as a way to offer alternative images and stories. This is a newly mastered (in 2011) version of the film in 1080p High Definitionfrom archival 35mm elements. It includes new music by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra (2011).

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The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

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4 Comments

  1. Oldcomican
    October 12, 2013 at 8:34 am — Reply

    I’ve only seen this movie once, because it was billed as the archetype of the epic movie and a classic of the silent movie era. It proved to be a disturbing film, a piece of outright propaganda extolling the virtues of the Ku Klux Klan. It’s interesting that a war classic like “The Dam Busters” which provided George Lucas with the inspiration, pacing and dialog for the attack on the death star in “A New Hope” hasn’t been seen in decades – simply because the black lab dog in the movie is given a name that makes some folks uncomfortable – but “Birth of a Nation” keeps getting trotted out and held up as an example. I think it’s a pity that this film hasn’t been relegated to the dust bin of history. It’s artistic merits don’t come close to making up for it’s underlying message.

  2. October 12, 2013 at 10:18 am — Reply

    I said this to Zach on Twitter, but I’ll expand on it here. My main take-home message from this movie was that it underscores the influential capacity for media to alter how specific messages are framed. This was an influential movie because it was so polarizing.

  3. Oldcomicfan
    October 14, 2013 at 7:05 am — Reply

    Well, my opinion remains – this movie has all the artistic merit of a Nazi propaganda film, and like those excreable pieces of pooh, it ought to be relegated to the garbage heap of history. I think “Intolerance” would be a better example of the first Epic silent movie than “Birth of a Nation”.

    • October 14, 2013 at 7:18 am — Reply

      Except Intolerance wasn’t first, this was. More to the point, if we ignore the existence of this movie, it becomes easier to ignore the mindset that created it, and to forget the important lesson that one’s words (and one’s images, and one’s terrible blackface, and all the rest of it) have CONSEQUENCES.

      Griffith himself was shocked to find that these images were so polarizing, as he never considered that someone would find them racist and offensive, even though it seems ridiculously obvious… There’s an important lesson in there someplace.

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