A little over two weeks ago, one of the premiere revival houses in Los Angeles, the Silent Movie on Fairfax Avenue, had planned a special screening of D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation. Since the theater is located only three blocks from my house, I made casual plans to stroll over and attend the screening. However, the local chapter of the NAACP voiced its opposition to the screening, as did a few other area activists. In response, the Silent Movie issued a press release announcing the cancellation of the screening. Only slightly perturbed, I accepted the Silent Movie's decision. Besides, I understood the position taken by the NAACP and the activists. Very much so, in fact. Yet, there's no denying this film's importance in the cinematic canon. I wasn't sure how I felt, overall. Though I'm big on sensitivity, I'm not so hot on historical revisionism, either. Then, last Friday, Turner Classic Movies broadcast a special about D. W. Griffith. And, of course, much of the documentary focused on The Birth of a Nation and public and critical reaction to it. What touched me most was an interview with an African-American man who attended one of the first screenings of the film. With a pained look on his old face, the gentleman related how he and his friends were hurt and dismayed by Griffith's portrayal of African-Americans and the sympathetic position the film takes in regard to the Ku Klux Klan. Seriously, the man, after all these decades, still feels hurt because of the film. There was no questioning his sincerity. So, how must we regard The Birth of a Nation in the year 2000? Is it cinema's equivalent of baseball legend Ty Cobb--that is, unquestionably "great," but still racist to the core? Is this a film we should let quietly die in the dustbin of history? Or should we revere it for its technical genius, while overlooking somehow the racist content? Perplexed, I am. You?