A few words about…™ The Birth of a Nation (1915) — in Blu-ray

Just grab a copy, and allow yourself to be surrounded by this non-non-restoration, with all of its digital tools available, used beautifully. 4 Stars

Yes.

I know.

Mr. Griffith’s 1915, The Birth of a Nation, which in many ways helped to further the language of cinema, has been seen on every known video format, since the early days.

A quick count, shows, 347 different variants, from VHS tapes, telecine’d at the wrong speed, from well used 16mm prints, to DVDs, and Blu-rays, all based upon different research and availability of film elements.

This one is different.

Photoplay’s Patrick Stanbury has seemingly gone about this in a similar fashion to Lord Cararvon, and the opening of King Tut’s tomb in 1922 by archaeologist, Howard Carter. On location, was cinematographer Freddie Young, “in town” on a location trip for Fires of Fate (1923).

When all of this occurred, The Birth of a Nation, was seven years old, and had already been re-cut.

Re-cutting continued for the next 270 years, inclusive of re-cuts for sound versions, with added and deleted footage.

The questions remained.

Where were the finest available film elements, what were they, and how did they all fit together.

Mr. Stanbury went about unravelling those questions, and the end result, in cancert with the BFI, was a presentation that finally makes its way to the Colonies, courtesy of Twilight Time.

Let’s make this simple.

The Photoplay reconstruction / restoration of BoaN leaves everything released previously in the dust and fit for coasters.

I could go into grain structure, tinting, motion, digital clean-up, use of the original score. But why bother?

While some may have problems with the Klan being the heroes of the piece, one needs to place the film in historical perspective, much like Triumph of the Will.

Just grab a copy, and allow yourself to be surrounded by this non-non-restoration, with all of its digital tools available, used beautifully.

The two-disc set comes with a plethora of extras, including original outtakes (sorry, no gag reels).

Here’s a link to an interesting piece on the restoration:

http://www.brentonfilm.com/articles/the-birth-of-a-nation-controversial-classic-gets-a-definitive-new-restoration

Image – 4.5

Audio – 5 (DTS-HD MA 5.1) score only

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from DVD, or previous Blu-ray – Don’t ask!

Very Highly Recommended

RAH

Published by

Robert Harris

editor,member

76 Comments

  1. I'm ambivalent about this film as it pertains to film history and its influence on America at that time. It's blame by some historians for the rebirth of the KKK. Anyhow, I own it on DVD and Blu-ray so I'll probably buy it again due to its significance in film history, but the film does make me cringe during certain film sequences whenever I do watch it.

  2. Thanks for the review, Robert! I still have the 1991 Lumivision Laserdisc from the George Eastman House which also contains excerpts from THE BIRTH OF A RACE and I'm glad to hear your endorsement of the TT release. It's already on it's way to me across the Atlantic along with TT's GERONIMO and FOREVER AMBER…. 😉

    Kind regards, Johannes

  3. Robert Crawford

    I'm ambivalent about this film as it pertains to film history and its influence on America at that time. It's blame by some historians for the rebirth of the KKK. Anyhow, I own it on DVD and Blu-ray so I'll probably buy it again due to its significance in film history, but the film does make me cringe during certain film sequences whenever I do watch it.

    Couldn’t agree more.

    It’s occasionally a very difficult experience, regardless of one’s genetic heritage.

  4. Robert Crawford

    I'm ambivalent about this film as it pertains to film history and its influence on America at that time. It's blame by some historians for the rebirth of the KKK. Anyhow, I own it on DVD and Blu-ray so I'll probably buy it again due to its significance in film history, but the film does make me cringe during certain film sequences whenever I do watch it.

    I completely second your opinion, Robert. But for art's sake, let us once put aside that damn (pardon) "political correctness" we are mentally enslaved with. Let's observe that more than a century (!) old piece of art without any bounds of ideology. That's the way I approach other controversial films, like e.g. the Leni Riefenstahl films, too…

  5. Johannes S

    I completely second your opinion, Robert. But for art's sake, let us once put aside that damn (pardon) "political correctness" we are mentally enslaved with. Let's observe that more than a century (!) old piece of art without any bounds of ideology. That's the way I approach other controversial films, like e.g. the Leni Riefenstahl films, too…

    To me as a black man, it's more than that to me. My grandfather, who was born in 1901, he convey a story to me when I was in high school about this film and living in this country after its release. In short, it wasn't a pleasant time for my grandfather nor others of my race. Almost fifty years later, I still can see the pain on his face when he told me that story.

  6. Completely understood. What I meant, these historic films are always the mirror reflecting the social, political and economical conditions of it's time. Unfortunaltely we can't alter our past and our collective national history. Believe me, personally I would, if I could….

    Without wanting to dismiss any controversial aspects, it sometimes helps to just emphasize the perspective of the art behind the work and see it in the context of time.

  7. Make no mistake, Mr. Crawford, I hit the "Like" button not because of what your grandfather was subjected to but, rather, for the personal perspective that you shared; as this living memory actively places 2018 readers within a still living context on exactly how this film affected so many; both pro and con. With only 3 sentences written, one would have to be lost within their own world of today's distractions and a century of distance to not sense or feel. Your grandfather's story personalizes and adds testimony as to why "The Birth of a Nation" will always have attached to it the word of "controversial".

  8. While I'm sure there was no intent to offend, I think the word "enjoy" was not the proper choice to attach to contemporary viewings of this film, regardless of one's ability to see it in historical perspective.

  9. Rob W

    While I'm sure there was no intent to offend, I think the word "enjoy" was not the proper choice to attach to contemporary viewings of this film, regardless of one's ability to see it in historical perspective.

    Agreed. As much as one might, likewise, "appreciate," Triumph, from a filmmaking perspective, it's still a rough film to view, with no enjoyment imparted.

  10. Robert Harris

    Agreed. As much as one might, likewise, "appreciate," Triumph, from a filmmaking perspective, it's still a rough film to view, with no enjoyment imparted.

    Please understand that English is not my native language and therefore I apologize for any semantic misunderstanding in relation to the word "enjoy". Sorry about the language barrier that causes a somehow "limited palette" of expressions.

    May I kindly ask a moderator to replace the word "enjoy" with an appropriate synonym.

  11. I just don't give a flip about this film. I've watched and I hate ever second of it. I do understand how important it is to history and the advancement of technology and being the first real feature film — and this version does look stunning. I just don't want to watch it. It's bad on so many levels. And silent movies are my favorite genre. I would love for this company to take a stab with SON OF THE SHEIK, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, WEST OF ZANZIBAR, and some others.

    • After seeing some of his films i check out my copy of the great documentary D.W. Griffith, Father of Film (1993) by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill. They talk about the film in detail and his career. It's too bad he began to fade during the Jazz Age and into the 1930's.
  12. Member 323668

    Please understand that English is not my native language and therefore I apologize for any semantic misunderstanding in relation to the word "enjoy". Sorry about the language barrier that causes a somehow "limited palette" of expressions.

    May I kindly ask a moderator to replace the word "enjoy" with an appropriate synonym.

    Taken care of.

  13. warnerbro

    I just don't give a flip about this film. I've watched and I hate ever second of it. I do understand how important it is to history and the advancement of technology and being the first real feature film — and this version does look stunning. I just don't want to watch it. It's bad on so many levels. And silent movies are my favorite genre. I would love for this company to take a stab with SON OF THE SHEIK, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, WEST OF ZANZIBAR, and some others.

    Truthfully, I'd love the "bros at Warners" to allow us some of the silent eras finest, titles they sadly control and were all restored by Kevin Brownlow and Photoplay…The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Wind, The Crowd, The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg, Ben-Hur ('25) in HD and, most of all, Greed (with and/or without the extended photo captures). Personally, I like Birth of a Nation for the action and interesting performances of the main characters. Not my favorite, though, which would be Orphans of the Storm. An HD upgrade of that would be wonderful.

  14. I was hesitating about buying BOAN yet again. But your big thumbs up suggests this is the definitive version so I'm double dipping. As a side note: when I was in college in San Francisco (SF State) circa 1970, I was already a huge film buff and the city had several revival houses showing classic cinema and I was attending as many as I can and it was great seeing classics on the big screen. I saw Citizen Kane for the first time in a theater so packed I had to sit in the front row twisting my neck uncomfortably to see the screen. One day a small revival theater announced it was going to show Birth Of A Nation. I was excited because it was a legendary film I'd heard about but never seen as it was rarely shown (remember all this is pre-video). Well, this was the era of "black power", hippies, student demonstrations etc. The theater received threats of violence if it showed the film and the theater canceled the showing so I didn't see the film for another 20 years.

  15. I had a strange first experience with this film. During my first week of film school, everyone in my year showed up for the one class we all had to take together. We were informed that the professor had abruptly quit a couple of days before, and that we would have a new one by the following week. That night, however, we were going to use the three-hour duration of the class to watch The Birth of a Nation. That was about all the introduction we got.

    To be fair, it's not necessarily wrong to begin a class called "Evolution of Film Language and Theory" with at least a discussion of this film, but I think most of us would have appreciated a bit more of a warning. We'd all just met the week before, and to this day, I still think of this screening as a bonding experience for us. I had known about the film for a while and was aware of its legacy, but I was not quite prepared for just how ugly much of it is. The film is overtly racist to its core, and that can't be "separated" from the artistic achievements on display, because those aspects are in many ways inextricable from each other.

    It's not despite, but because of its ugliness, that I think the film should be remembered and studied. The legacy it created is a prime example of the power of images and their capacity to influence those who see them. In that way, the film itself can serve as a reminder of the responsibility that image-creators must accept and consider as they create their images.

    Hope that makes sense. I guess my point is that I agree that it's an important film that should be preserved, but we can't ever divorce it from its racist legacy.

  16. It is an essential part of film history, a pioneer for many techniques still used today. That being the case, I'm very glad this restoration exists. It is worthy of preservation. But I have no interest in owning it, or even seeing it again.

  17. In all these years, I've never seen Birth of a Nation, but when Twilight Time had a sale on some other titles a couple weeks back, I decided to get this as well. I'm glad to know it basically looks as good as it can. I really don't have a problem putting things in their historical perspective.

  18. Robert Crawford

    To me as a black man, it's more than that to me. My grandfather, who was born in 1901, he convey a story to me when I was in high school about this film and living in this country after its release. In short, it wasn't a pleasant time for my grandfather nor others of my race. Almost fifty years later, I still can see the pain on his face when he told me that story.

    I tend to think that is it's greatest value and why it shouldn't be forgotten, in the "those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it" sense. People should know it and know what the reaction to it was. I would say more, but…

  19. It isn't a perfect analogy by any means. Maybe there aren't any perfect analogies. But go to any major metropolitan museum and you will see idealized depictions of infamous tyrants, glorious tableau of triumphant slaughter of the oppressed and enslaved; art created by artists whose work deserved to be preserved and lauded for its artistry, craftsmanship and influence on the medium and to its society. And, to boot, we are rarely if ever reminded on the information placards mounted next to the work that we ought to condemn the subjects of this or that display because of what they truly were and what is truly being depicted.

    The differences between those examples and The Birth of a Nation are obvious, of course. In many cases, those museum pieces were not the concept or the intended message of the artist themselves. It was likely commissioned by the tyrants, their heirs or those of the perpetrators of the slaughter in order to spin history to their favor. The artist was possibly expected to comply with those wishes or suffer the unpleasant consequences. Many years and generations have passed since the work was completed, even longer since the subjects and atrocities occurred. There is considerable distance between the people and events depicted in the works and the day we stroll through the museum to appreciate the art.

    It is merely a given that we will observe and appreciate the technique of the art without being offended by the content.

    However, it is certainly understandable and a perfectly valid response if we are offended by it. Do we wish the works had never been so well preserved and displayed? Some might. And they might have a good argument for that, too. I see people of my ethnic or religious group being tortured and slaughtered by their idealized victors in paintings and am not so offended by it that I would prefer it be put in a vault and ignored. But that is easy for me to say since the events depicted typically occurred centuries ago. I couldn't put a name on any of my ancestors who were alive at the time. Would I have felt differently if I were observing the art so soon after the fact that I could actually recognize my own grandfather at the point of a sword held by a highlighted "hero" of the piece? You bet.

    So we are at a very awkward (a weak word in this context I know) point in time for the "great", historically influential product of this particular lively art of cinema. Many of us want as many of the works as possible to be well preserved, easily accessible and available, well displayed and not ignored, neglected, dismissed and forgotten. Like the museum pieces above, we see that as essential for the sake of our descendants' appreciation of the form.

    Cinema is so young compared with other art forms that I can see that many of us want a big information placard mounted next to this piece to further emphasize that our appreciation of it as a work of art is about its craftsmanship, technique and historical influence (both cinematic and societal, for good or ill) rather than lauding its message. We have not yet put nearly as much distance between the events depicted and the present day to have it be a given that the unprepared observer will also see it that way.

  20. Historic significance aside, I believe that Griffith viewed what he created and how negative it affected the country. And Intolerance is a better film because of it, not an exoneration of the film but a suggestive apology. I have the Kino, but ordered it based on the recommendation.

  21. The first – the only – time I saw this film was when I was high school age, probably about 15. I was trying to see movies that I had heard or read about when it came to the all time greats. I knew nothing about this movie other than that critics had said it was great and that Griffith was legendary. I took the title at face value and thought that it would be a straightforward history lesson. I had no idea about any of the racist content. I was stunned as I saw the direction to movie turned. Still, I kept watching. I remembered hearing how great the movie was supposed to be and thinking that something by the end of the film would redeem what had come before, would somehow undo what had been done, like a Twilight Zone morality tale, something….but no, the film is what it is.

    To have seen this movie just as a young film lover with no idea whatsoever about the racist content in it when I rented it…I’ll just never forget what it was like to watch that movie blindly.

  22. Adam Lenhardt

    It is an essential part of film history, a pioneer for many techniques still used today. That being the case, I'm very glad this restoration exists. It is worthy of preservation. But I have no interest in owning it, or even seeing it again.

    That's pretty much how I feel, Adam. I have seen the film a couple of times because of its historical significance, but I have no desire to ever see it again, nor do I want it as part of my film collection.

  23. Scott Merryfield

    That's pretty much how I feel, Adam. I have seen the film a couple of times because of its historical significance, but I have no desire to ever see it again, nor do I want it as part of my film collection.

    Eventually, I'm going to buy this BD release and it's not going to be an entertaining experience viewing it, especially with its over 3 hours run time along with the bonus material. However, I'm doing so for cinematic history reasons and nothing else. This will be my fifth and probably last viewing of this film in my lifetime. At least, in its entirety.

  24. Robert Crawford

    Eventually, I'm going to buy this BD release and it's not going to be an entertaining experience viewing it, especially with its over 3 hours run time along with the bonus material. However, I'm doing so for cinematic history reasons and nothing else. This will be my fifth and probably last viewing of this film in my lifetime. At least, in its entirety.

    I can appreciate that, Robert. I have a few films in my collection for historical reasons that I really do not enjoy watching, although nothing with the abhorrent themes of Birth of a Nation.

  25. Robert Harris

    Yes.

    I know.

    Mr. Griffith's 1915, The Birth of a Nation, which in many ways helped to further the language of cinema, has been seen on every known video format, since the early days.

    A quick count, shows, 347 different variants, from VHS tapes, telecine'd at the wrong speed, from well used 16mm prints, to DVDs, and Blu-rays, all based upon different research and availability of film elements.

    This one is different.

    Photoplay's Patrick Stanbury has seemingly gone about this in a similar fashion to Lord Cararvon, and the opening of King Tut's tomb in 1922 by archaeologist, Howard Carter. On location, was cinematographer Freddie Young, "in town" on a location trip for Fires of Fate (1923).

    When all of this occurred, The Birth of a Nation, was seven years old, and had already been re-cut.

    Re-cutting continued for the next 270 years, inclusive of re-cuts for sound versions, with added and deleted footage.

    The questions remained.

    Where were the finest available film elements, what were they, and how did they all fit together.

    Mr. Stanbury went about unravelling those questions, and the end result, in cancert with the BFI, was a presentation that finally makes its way to the Colonies, courtesy of Twilight Time.

    Let's make this simple.

    The Photoplay reconstruction / restoration of BoaN leaves everything released previously in the dust and fit for coasters.

    I could go into grain structure, tinting, motion, digital clean-up, use of the original score. But why bother?

    While some may have problems with the Klan being the heroes of the piece, one needs to place the film in historical perspective, much like Triumph of the Will.

    Just grab a copy, and allow yourself to be surrounded by this non-non-restoration, with all of its digital tools available, used beautifully.

    The two-disc set comes with a plethora of extras, including original outtakes (sorry, no gag reels).

    Here's a link to an interesting piece on the restoration:

    http://www.brentonfilm.com/articles…ial-classic-gets-a-definitive-new-restoration

    Image – 4.5

    Audio – 5 (DTS-HD MA 5.1) score only

    Pass / Fail – Pass

    Upgrade from DVD, or previous Blu-ray – Don't ask!

    Very Highly Recommended

    RAH

    I love them both, but I had always preferred The Birth of a Nation over Intolerance. When I saw Cohen Media Group's restoration of Intolerance, however, my esteem for that film rose significantly (showing how important presentation is to film), to the point that I was wondering if Intolerance was actually the better film. I withheld judgement until I could see a good presentation of The Birth of a Nation, which I finally did with this release. I think I might still consider Intolerance superior, even though I still think Birth is quite superb.

  26. Robert Harris

    Mr. Stanbury went about unravelling those questions, and the end result, in cancert with the BFI, was a presentation that finally makes its way to the Colonies, courtesy of Twilight Time.

    Very Highly Recommended

    RAH

    RAH: It appears you are recommending the Twilight Time release, but the Amazon link is going to the older Kino release from 2011.
    Is this a mistake, or did you actually review the Kino 2-disc set?

  27. Rodney

    RAH: It appears you are recommending the Twilight Time release, but the Amazon link is going to the older Kino release from 2011.
    Is this a mistake, or did you actually review the Kino 2-disc set?

    He's recommending the TT release as Amazon doesn't sell those releases.

  28. I have no interest in seeing this film, but the discussion around watching films in light of the times they were made has hit home for me in a very interesting way…from some of my favorite late 1980s to early 1990s action films!

    I recently rewatched all four Lethal Weapons and The Last Boy Scout (Netflix and HBOGo). Both series tackled the race issue. Starting with LW3 they tackled the women's empowerment issue (Rene Russo's character). With LW4 they added the human trafficking element, analogizing the treatment of African American slaves to modern day (at the time) Chinese human trafficking. Pretty progressive stuff for what was on paper just a buddy action flick.

    However what struck me throughout all the films? The passive-aggressive tone against non heterosexual orientation. Riggs and Hallenbeck both drop the "f" word (gay slur, not the expletive) in LW1 and TLB (both coincidentally penned by Shane Black). Even later LWs reference a bit of homophobia without dropping the f bomb (in LW4 when Riggs makes Murtaugh dance like a chicken in the opening scene, and puts his hand on him, Murtaugh says "hey don't put your hands on me when I don't have any clothes on). Admittedly that's a relatively innocuous scene vs. dropping the f-bombs.

    I'm not a PC policeman. I'm not gay and I didn't take offense at any of those scenes. But I can understand anyone who might find them offensive in light of today's sensibilities. But in the 80s-90s we were in a much different place with regards to the LGBTQ community, so I am forced to contextualize it as such when I'm rewatching them.

    It's funny, I'd seen those films dozens of times pre-2000s and never even noticed those remarks. So it was surprising that it stood out to me so much in my recent viewings over the last couple of weeks. I admit I still enjoyed those films, and wouldn't advocate for the removal of those lines. But if they were being remade today (and God help us I hope they aren't ever remade, as Hollywood needs to come up with more original ideas rather than rehashing old ones) those lines certainly wouldn't make in into today's scripts, and rightfully so.

  29. Rodney

    RAH: It appears you are recommending the Twilight Time release, but the Amazon link is going to the older Kino release from 2011.
    Is this a mistake, or did you actually review the Kino 2-disc set?

    I have nothing to do with links. They occur, in the dark of night, presumably put in place by a trainee.

  30. If you love old movies, you have to grow a thick skin about the racism found there. I'm a big Buster Keaton fan, but there are scenes in his films that make me squirm.

    But Birth of a Nation, and Gone with the Wind, are racist at another level. They look back nostalgically at slavery, and treat emancipation as a disaster. I can acknowledge their importance to film history, but I can't just squirm and ignore the racism.

    A couple of articles of mine:

  31. I don't hit people over the head with an anvil because I watch old cartoons, and I'm not a racist because I watch old movies. I'm perfectly capable of parsing context for myself. I don't need or encourage other people to help me with that.

  32. I reviewed the Kino Blu-ray in 2011, and this is my opening paragraph:

    D.W. Griffith's silent classic The Birth of a Nation is simultaneously one of the most highly regarded and most deeply reviled films in the history of cinema. As this wonderful Blu-ray presentation from Kino Lorber makes clear, the film is deserving of both the praise and the revulsion. From a cinematic standpoint, it is a landmark epic which forever changed the motion picture industry. At the same time it is one of the most offensive, racist and historically dubious films ever made – in effect, a paean to the Ku Klux Klan. For all its faults, it is essential viewing for any serious student of film. As James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, put it in 1992, "Bigoted and racist as its treatment is of African Americans, The Birth of a Nation is an inescapable part of our history."

    At that time, the Kino Blu-ray was the best presentation of the film that we had seen on home video. However, RAH's review makes it clear that the Twilight Time release is noticeably superior, so I plan to do a direct comparison soon.

  33. bigshot

    I don't hit people over the head with an anvil because I watch old cartoons, and I'm not a racist because I watch old movies. I'm perfectly capable of parsing context for myself. I don't need or encourage other people to help me with that.

    Of course but who [here] suggested otherwise?

  34. bigshot

    People who suggest that folks need to be protected from ideas in films. Films don't make people racist.

    I don’t think it’s as simple as that because racism is taught and this film was used to enhance such behavior and thinking.

  35. Thomas T

    I was hesitating about buying BOAN yet again. But your big thumbs up suggests this is the definitive version so I'm double dipping. As a side note: when I was in college in San Francisco (SF State) circa 1970, I was already a huge film buff and the city had several revival houses showing classic cinema and I was attending as many as I can and it was great seeing classics on the big screen. I saw Citizen Kane for the first time in a theater so packed I had to sit in the front row twisting my neck uncomfortably to see the screen. One day a small revival theater announced it was going to show Birth Of A Nation. I was excited because it was a legendary film I'd heard about but never seen as it was rarely shown (remember all this is pre-video). Well, this was the era of "black power", hippies, student demonstrations etc. The theater received threats of violence if it showed the film and the theater canceled the showing so I didn't see the film for another 20 years.

    A bad decision. That was tantamount to censorship. Free speech be damned…let's just screw with history. This is just another in an endless stream of politically-correct revisionism. It works both ways.

  36. Dick

    A bad decision. That was tantamount to censorship. Free speech be damned…let's just screw with history. This is just another in an endless stream of politically-correct revisionism. It works both ways.

    Free speech has nothing to do with private businesses as long as they’re not operating as an extension of the government. We restrict certain topics of discussion on this forum as it’s our right to do so without regard to restrictions on individuals freedom of speech.

  37. Robert Crawford

    I don’t think it’s as simple as that because racism is taught and this film was used to enhance such behavior and thinking.

    I know certain subjects are frowned upon by the HTF but since you opened the door (just sayin :)). A lot things are taught but we use our own intellect and values to either accept them or reject them. I was brought up in a religious household and "taught" certain things. but I was barely out of my teens when I rejected religion. No, I'm not comparing The Ten Commandments or Song Of Bernadette to BOAN but I can take what's good in those films while rejecting their agenda.

  38. Thomas T

    I know certain subjects are frowned upon by the HTF but since you opened the door (just sayin :)). A lot things are taught but we use our own intellect and values to either accept them or reject them. I was brought up in a religious household and "taught" certain things. but I was barely out of my teens when I rejected religion. No, I'm not comparing The Ten Commandments or Song Of Bernadette to BOAN but I can take what's good in those films while rejecting their agenda.

    We frown upon politics and religion so how did I open that door to those subject matters? As to your other comments, I have no comment.

  39. bigshot

    Films don't make people racist.

    Couldn't agree more. Motives are in the heart and not readily apparent to observers. In other words, two people can do the exact same thing for completely different reasons. I look for historical accuracy in these types of films. If they are true to the period, I'm fine with them, even if I do personally decide to pass in some cases. That's one of the main reasons I love most of Quentin Tarantino's catalog. The dialogue and graphic content he presents is not gratuitous or unrealistic in relation to the depicted environments, at least in my opinion.

    For perspective, I do want to see this film.

  40. Robert Crawford

    We frown upon politics and religion so how did I open that door to those subject matters? As to your other comments, I have no comment.

    Certain subjects are "hot" buttons: politics, religion, sex, race, sexual orientation, gun control etc. and best left alone at the Thanksgiving dinner table and film forums in the name of civility. I didn't realize that some are discouraged by the HTF while others are permitted. I stand corrected.

  41. Robert Crawford

    I don’t think it’s as simple as that because racism is taught and this film was used to enhance such behavior and thinking.

    It may have been used to validate and reinforce preconceived racist ideas, but I seriously doubt watching it made anyone racist. I watch movies with murders in them without being a murderer, and I can watch documentaries with heavy political slants without agreeing with them. Perhaps when this film came out people weren't able to parse media as well, but today's world has grown up around all kinds of movies and TV. We should be able to think for ourselves even when movies represent things that aren't true.

  42. bigshot

    It may have been used to validate and reinforce preconceived racist ideas, but I seriously doubt watching it made anyone racist. I watch movies with murders in them without being a murderer, and I can watch documentaries with heavy political slants without agreeing with them. Perhaps when this film came out people weren't able to parse media as well, but today's world has grown up around all kinds of movies and TV. We should be able to think for ourselves even when movies represent things that aren't true.

    Sometimes, validation and reinforcement of preconceived ideas can result in unnecessary and harmful results. What can be used to teach about historical events can also be used to influence that same negativity to a new generation. I'm not saying the film should be censored but just that there are always two sides and care should be taken regarding how certain material is introduced. While we may have made strides with respect to fighting racism, I wouldn't say it is enough to imply the world has grown up.

    Personally, I've never seen BOAN, nor do I have any desire to. While I do sometimes watch films for historical significance and I can keep a perspective of the times, I still watch primarily for entertainment value. As someone else referenced, there are films from the 70's that I once watched with no issue, that I can no longer tolerate. I realize many take exception to the term "political correctness", but I suppose internally we all have our own form of "political correctness" that we each adhere to.

  43. bigshot

    It may have been used to validate and reinforce preconceived racist ideas, but I seriously doubt watching it made anyone racist. I watch movies with murders in them without being a murderer, and I can watch documentaries with heavy political slants without agreeing with them. Perhaps when this film came out people weren't able to parse media as well, but today's world has grown up around all kinds of movies and TV. We should be able to think for ourselves even when movies represent things that aren't true.

    When this film came out over 100 years ago, the world was a different place than it is today. With that said, even with all of the technological and sociological advances of today, ignorance is still a huge problem for the world of today which means so is racism and bigotry. Anyhow, I've had my say so I'll respectively bow out of this thread until I watch this new Blu-ray release.

  44. bigshot

    …Perhaps when this film came out people weren't able to parse media as well, but today's world has grown up around all kinds of movies and TV…

    Most people get their news these days from social media and are as clueless and gullible as they've ever been. And there's probably more outright propaganda than ever before.

  45. Robert Crawford

    I'm ambivalent about this film as it pertains to film history and its influence on America at that time. It's blame by some historians for the rebirth of the KKK. Anyhow, I own it on DVD and Blu-ray so I'll probably buy it again due to its significance in film history, but the film does make me cringe during certain film sequences whenever I do watch it.

    When they showed this film in a film class I had at NYU in the 80s, I'll never forget a young Black woman in the audience who was crying during the viewing. That will always stick with me …

  46. In talking to friends who teach film, it is always argued that BIRTH OF A NATION must be shown to students due to it techniques and since it more or less started the film industry due to its incredible popularity. The only danger there is that when I have talked to younger people who have seen BOAN and I try to talk about Griffith and his importance as a filmmaker, the essential and only thing they remember is that he is a horrible racist. It could be argued that other films of his, like BROKEN BLOSSOMS, are equally racist. I myself cannot watch BOAN anymore, but if I were to teach a film course I'd show INTOLERANCE as a sample of what Griffith could do. It is interesting to me that two of the most popular films ever, BIRTH OF A NATION and GONE WITH THE WIND, are stories of the civil war and portray slavery as a benevolent system. I am not for censorship nor is it smart to erase bad things in the past and pretend they did not happen.

  47. bigshot

    I don't hit people over the head with an anvil because I watch old cartoons, and I'm not a racist because I watch old movies. I'm perfectly capable of parsing context for myself. I don't need or encourage other people to help me with that.

    And I never insinuated that you were a racist.

    But when we talk about old movies, we should be aware of the time they were made in, and that includes the racism of the era.

  48. bigshot

    People who suggest that folks need to be protected from ideas in films. Films don't make people racist.

    To say that "Films don't make people racist" is to say that films cannot change the people watching them. Of course films can make people racist. And films can help people overcome their racism.

  49. LincolnSpector

    To say that "Films don't make people racist" is to say that films cannot change the people watching them. Of course films can make people racist. And films can help people overcome their racism.

    I respectfully disagree. I've seen The Birth Of A Nation and it didn't make me racist. I've seen Triumph Of The Will and it didn't make me pro-Hitler. I've seen The Green Berets and it didn't make me pro the Viet Nam war. I've seen The Lost Weekend and it didn't stop me from drinking. I think films such as these most likely only confirm the beliefs that are already there in people. It doesn't make them change their innate values. I would hate to think that people let cinema do their thinking for them. I've been watching movies on a regular basis since I was 10 years old and I've rejected a film's values or morality (even in films I admire like Straw Dogs) as much as I've been in agreement with them (even in films I dislike like Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?).

  50. Thomas T

    I respectfully disagree. I've seen The Birth Of A Nation and it didn't make me racist. I've seen Triumph Of The Will and it didn't make me pro-Hitler. I've seen The Green Berets and it didn't make me pro the Viet Nam war. I've seen The Lost Weekend and it didn't stop me from drinking. I think films such as these most likely only confirm the beliefs that are already there in people. It doesn't make them change their innate values. I would hate to think that people let cinema do their thinking for them. I've been watching movies on a regular basis since I was 10 years old and I've rejected a film's values or morality (even in films I admire like Straw Dogs) as much as I've been in agreement with them (even in films I dislike like Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?).

    While I don't think a film could MAKE someone racist (or sexist or homophobic or Anti-Semitic ), I do think that culture can re-inforce beliefs that people may already have, or that are already prevelent in society. You can't tell me that the racial stereotypes common in Hollywood films of the 20s, 30s, and 40s didn't help in contributing to the widespread bigotry that existed in the "real world" at that time, or at the very least reflect back those attitudes.

  51. Films can only change that sort of belief if people are gullible enough to not realize that cinema is the art of manipulation. We don't need to be protected from evil ideas. We need to be protected from stupid people who can't parse the media. 100 years should be enough time to know that this isn't reality.

    If the purpose of film is to correct me and make me think a certain way, then I don't need films any more. I'll move on to music or books where ideas can be free to stand and fall on their own merits and I don't have to be insulated from them.

  52. LincolnSpector

    But when we talk about old movies, we should be aware of the time they were made in, and that includes the racism of the era.

    I think it's more valuable for films to make us question our own beliefs than it is to validate ourselves by slamming on people who lived in a different time and place. I'd rather try to understand the past so I don't make the same mistakes. I prefer questioning to validation, and that is exactly why Birth of a Nation is not threat to me.

  53. SeanSKA

    or at the very least reflect back those attitudes.

    On that, we are in full agreement. Films of each era do reflect cultural and societal attitudes. On that basis alone, I think cinema is invaluable in showing us where our "head was at" during that time. TBOAN is a cinematic archival record of of a certain segment of American societal attitudes in the 1910s. Similarly, while I don't think a movie like Easy Rider holds up very well as cinema in 2018, it remains an invaluable archival record of the U.S. in 1969 and a culture that no longer exists. As a side note, in a recent conversation with a young 22 year old man, he asked me if Grease was an accurate representation of teenagers in the 1950s. I told I wouldn't be the one to ask as I didn't reach my teens until the 1960s! 😆

  54. bigshot

    I think it's more valuable for films to make us question our own beliefs than it is to validate ourselves by slamming on people who lived in a different time and place. I'd rather try to understand the past so I don't make the same mistakes. I prefer questioning to validation, and that is exactly why Birth of a Nation is not threat to me.

    As I mentioned earlier in the thread, one of my memories of seeing "Birth of a Nation" was in a film class at NYU in the 80s. I noticed a Black female classmate in tears during the screening. These type of images may affect different people in different ways, especially based on their backgrounds and histories.

  55. bigshot

    Films can only change that sort of belief if people are gullible enough to not realize that cinema is the art of manipulation. We don't need to be protected from evil ideas. We need to be protected from stupid people who can't parse the media. 100 years should be enough time to know that this isn't reality.

    If the purpose of film is to correct me and make me think a certain way, then I don't need films any more. I'll move on to music or books where ideas can be free to stand and fall on their own merits and I don't have to be insulated from them.

    101 years was not enough time for many to discern reality from manipulation…But that's just my opinion

    I don't know if a film (or any work of art) could truly change a belief, but I'm sure they can re-inforce them

  56. No one is forced to watch a movie. I get angry watching nihilistic slasher movies like Wrong Turn and Hostel, so I don't watch them. But I wouldn't try to tell other people that they shouldn't watch them because it might turn them into killers. The big difference between Birth of a Nation and Wrong Turn is that Birth is a brilliantly made film with many revolutionary techniques that affected every film that came after. I think the people who would be watching a century old silent film are probably capable of putting it in context. I don't think anyone has to worry about this film corrupting the world.

  57. bigshot

    No one is forced to watch a movie. I get angry watching nihilistic slasher movies like Wrong Turn and Hostel, so I don't watch them. But I wouldn't try to tell other people that they shouldn't watch them because it might turn them into killers. The big difference between Birth of a Nation and Wrong Turn is that Birth is a brilliantly made film with many revolutionary techniques that affected every film that came after. I think the people who would be watching a century old silent film are probably capable of putting it in context. I don't think anyone has to worry about this film corrupting the world.

    Of course, one could say that this film had already corrupted the world, at the time it was made…
    "Birth of a Nation" is a brilliant work of art, in service of an evil agenda. Both the artistic and cultural impact should be freely debated and discussed.

  58. Thomas T

    I respectfully disagree. I've seen The Birth Of A Nation and it didn't make me racist. I've seen Triumph Of The Will and it didn't make me pro-Hitler. I've seen The Green Berets and it didn't make me pro the Viet Nam war. I've seen The Lost Weekend and it didn't stop me from drinking. I think films such as these most likely only confirm the beliefs that are already there in people. It doesn't make them change their innate values. I would hate to think that people let cinema do their thinking for them. I've been watching movies on a regular basis since I was 10 years old and I've rejected a film's values or morality (even in films I admire like Straw Dogs) as much as I've been in agreement with them (even in films I dislike like Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?).

    It's not binary. It's not that you see a movie and bing! you automatically agree with its message. But a well-made film can budge someone's view a bit. Remember that in 1914, the KKK had been dormant for decades. Soon after 1915, it swelled.

  59. Perhaps, I'm missing something here. Now, we're arguing whether BOAN will influence people of today regarding racism? If so I don't agree with that assertion. However, back in 1915, when people as a whole were more ignorant and lack general knowledge about other races combined with living in a very segregated neighborhoods/societies, this film had a massive influence on people in a negative manner and had a direct link to the rebirth of the KKK. If you don't believe that then go ahead and ignore historians that have studied that era of American history.

  60. bigshot

    No one is forced to watch a movie. I get angry watching nihilistic slasher movies like Wrong Turn and Hostel, so I don't watch them. But I wouldn't try to tell other people that they shouldn't watch them because it might turn them into killers.

    Yeah, I've seen a million horror movies and I've managed to not become Charles Manson. While I don't care for The Birth Of A Nation, I don't think that a person watching it today could suddenly become racist by watching it either. Just like if a guy started killing people after seeing Friday The 13th Part VII- The New Blood, there was something deeply wrong prior to their watching the movie.

  61. Thomas T

    I respectfully disagree. I've seen The Birth Of A Nation and it didn't make me racist. I've seen Triumph Of The Will and it didn't make me pro-Hitler. I've seen The Green Berets and it didn't make me pro the Viet Nam war. I've seen The Lost Weekend and it didn't stop me from drinking. I think films such as these most likely only confirm the beliefs that are already there in people. It doesn't make them change their innate values. I would hate to think that people let cinema do their thinking for them. I've been watching movies on a regular basis since I was 10 years old and I've rejected a film's values or morality (even in films I admire like Straw Dogs) as much as I've been in agreement with them (even in films I dislike like Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?).

    Although I am not disputing this post from Thomas T, I do know of a single instance in my life where I went with a friend to see "Mississippi Burning" on its opening week. The guy was silent at the films end. We went across the street and into a pub. Still he remained silent. Clearly the film had an impact on him. And then, after a few sips from his mug and pint, he began to talk. Two major topics transpired. The first was his revealing to me that he had lived his life as a racist. Quite a moment for me, as he kept that one well under wraps. The second topic? That after seeing the film he felt a deep shame in himself and later stated that "Mississippi Burning" led him to reassess the ways in which he was raised.

  62. Robert Crawford

    Perhaps, I'm missing something here. Now, we're arguing whether BOAN will influence people of today regarding racism? If so I don't agree with that assertion. However, back in 1915, when people as a whole were more ignorant and lack general knowledge about other races combined with living in a very segregated neighborhoods/societies, this film had a massive influence on people in a negative manner and had a direct link to the rebirth of the KKK. If you don't believe that then go ahead and ignore historians that have studied that era of American history.

    I totally agree. I don't think the message of this film, or the impact it had on society at the time, should be off the table for discussion. I don't think anyone today would necessarily be influenced by it. However, as the story of my Black female classmate in tears at a showing 70 years later illustrates, these images still have power to upset and offend.

  63. I have free will to make of myself what I want. Movies can inspire and inform me, or disgust and repel me. But they don't make me who I am. I think you could make Adolph Hitler watch the Care Bears movie 100 times and it still wouldn't change anything.

    I think it's a huge mistake to put limits on expressing ideas, even offensive ones. But then I'm an American. Not every country is as liberal about freedom of speech as the United States is.

  64. bigshot

    I have free will to make of myself what I want. Movies can inspire and inform me, or disgust and repel me. But they don't make me who I am. I think you could make Adolph Hitler watch the Care Bears movie 100 times and it still wouldn't change anything.

    I think it's a huge mistake to put limits on expressing ideas, even offensive ones. But then I'm an American. Not every country is as liberal about freedom of speech as the United States is.

    Who is saying that here?

  65. bigshot

    I have free will to make of myself what I want. Movies can inspire and inform me, or disgust and repel me. But they don't make me who I am. I think you could make Adolph Hitler watch the Care Bears movie 100 times and it still wouldn't change anything.

    I think it's a huge mistake to put limits on expressing ideas, even offensive ones. But then I'm an American. Not every country is as liberal about freedom of speech as the United States is.

    I don't think anyone here has said anything about putting limits on expressing ideas, or censoring anything. But that doesn't mean that the ideas expressed cannot be criticized, or even condemned.

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