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

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Robert Harris

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Robert Crawford

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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.
 
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M

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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
 

Robert Harris

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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.
 
M

Member 323668

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...
 
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Robert Crawford

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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.
 
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M

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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.
 

PMF

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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".
 
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Rob W

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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.
 
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Robert Harris

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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.
 
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M

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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.
 

warnerbro

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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.
 
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atcolomb

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  • 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.
 

Robert Crawford

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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.
 

Ed Lachmann

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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.
 

Thomas T

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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.
 

Albert71292

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I've already bought the movie twice, first in the 1980's on a $60 two-VHS set from Video Yesteryear, then the 2011 Kino Blu-ray. Probably will skip triple-dipping.
 

Bryan Tuck

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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.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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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.
 

JohnRice

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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.
 
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