- Acting of Lead Performers
- Acting of Supporting Cast
- Music Score
- Title Sequence
- Historical Importance
- Would You Recommend?
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A Spectacle of Unabashed Racism
- disinterested spectator
This is a racist movie made at a time when racism did not have a bad conscience, when it was taken as a given that whites were superior to blacks both intellectually and morally. The African slaves are portrayed as being happy under slavery where their white masters treat them like children. Under this system, miscegenation is the great evil, for it produces mulattoes. Mulattoes are evil for two reasons. First, they are the offspring of an evil union. Second, being half white, they have the intelligence and ambition of the white race. But legally they are Negroes, and thus the only way they can get what they want is by making blacks equal to whites. The female mulatto is the mistress of a Northern senator, and with her influence over him, she is the cause of the Civil War. The male mulatto becomes the black leader during reconstruction. For personal as well as political reasons, he gets the anti-miscegenation laws repealed. Rather than see white women forced to kill themselves to escape the fate worse than death, the men form the KKK and save the day. This movie is a sight to behold.
Good for TCM
I am proud of the courage TCM has to screen this film uncut and complete. Why? Although the views displayed in this film are abhorrent to us today, it is a piece of cinematic history. We simply need to view it in context of the times in which it was made. Better this than censorship, and a reluctance to face facts about our past, warts & all. TCM's approach is so much braver than the timid Disney approach. They have banned their 1940s era Song of the South film in fear of its being offensive to members of its audience. Also, when the Disney Channel several years ago aired Bing Crosby's film Holiday Inn, they cut the Lincoln's Birthday sequence because some cast members performed in blackface. Again, I find censorship in a free society a much bigger offense than the airing of movies which depict views expressing the mindset of a particular time, place, or group of people. I much prefer intellectual honesty than the self-righteousness of the PC brigade.
What Nation? Did Dixon's plan work?
What Nation is referred to in the title of the film? The "Invisible Nation" of the Ku Klux Klan.Thomas Dixon's goal in convincing D W Griffith to use "The Clansman" as the source book for "The Birth of A Nation" was to revive the KKK. He succeeded. The membership of the KKK in 1915, before the film came out, was less than 50,000. Ten years later the membership of the Klan was over 6,000.000 -- one hundred twenty times greater. Throughout the Midwest and South, nearly all the governors and judges and state legislators became members of the Clan.Its hard to tell if Woodrow Wilson ever actually said of the film, which was screened at the White House for him by Thomas Dixon, who went to school with Wilson, "It is like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so true." But Wilson, his second wife, and his estate NEVER asked Dixon and D W Griffith to remove those words which appear at the beginning in most prints of the film. Snopes has a nice discussion of all this:http://msgboard.snopes.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=32;t=000392;p=0
The Birth of a Nation
The controversial masterpiece from Griffith. Two family's, one North and one South, reunite to rebuild their lives after the civil war. Griffith here applies techniques that should be applauded for still being used today. However, the ever-present controversy of the degraded image of African-Americans and the "heroic" efforts of the KKK will be permanently associated with this film, causing it to be censored by the NAACP. Griffith offered an ambitious apology in the form of his next film "Intolerance." I give this a 5/5.
An Artistic Miscarriage
- David H.
Viewing D.W. Griffith's "Birth of A Nation" was illuminating, but also disappointing. It is more than the film's stereotyping of blacks and glorifying the Klu Klux Klan. The film is most disappointing because while the talent and innovation displayed are very apparent, Griffith seems bent on cramming his view of history down our throats under the banner of artistic freedom. Griffith may have been a film pioneer, but in "Birth of A Nation" he comes off no better than one of today's media demagogues or intolerant preachers.
After reading some comments, it's amazing that 98 years later, Griffith's monster still strikes a nerve and promotes racial divides among modern American movie viewers. Maybe some movies (Fahrenheit 451;) or books should be burned, but who draws the line?
A milestone of filmmaking but yes racist
If you are a regular viewer of TCM movies and find this movie racist you haven't been paying attention. It is difficult to find a movie made before the 60s that does not portray African Americans as either completely invisible or subservient to whites or stupid or figures of comic relief. There is no doubt that BON takes it to the extreme - it's an all-white cast portraying black people as the bad guys and the klan as the heroes. I love TCM and I love watching old movies but the flip side of enjoying old movies is seeing that 'the good old days' were not good for everyone. Racism doesn't always come riding down the road in a white robe, sometimes it's a maid who seems to have no home or life outside her employer and is willing, even, to work for free ('Since You Went Away'), a club car bartender who allows himself to get shot at by drunk train passengers, (The Palm Beach Story'). 'Birth of a Nation' deserves to be viewed in the context of its impact on filmmaking and also as a historical perspective of racism. It's a VERY interesting movie if you just watch it with an open mind and consider how far as a country we have come (or have we?)
My Favorite D.W. Griffith Film
- Alex Krajci
This Is My Favorite D.W. Griffith Film.
Condemnation of this motion picture
- Havard Wells Jones
Abusive racist content negates any artistic value in "Birth of a Nation". I despise the motion picture as created for the express purpose of proliferating the propaganda of bigotry, and I condem all those who participated in the production, both those behind and those in front of the camera. Stains of shame corrode the minds and souls of all white people who tolerate "Birth of a Nation" or who perpetuate racial bigotry and white supremacy. No aggregation of technical innovations is sufficient to offset the message of hatred which the film intends.
The Birth of a Nation: A Racist Masterpiece
D.W Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation", has been a study of great controversy ever since it was first presented on movie screens over 96 years ago. Though this film was released in 1915, it still sparks debate and interest. The images presented here are absolutely shocking, but they all fit into this story. D.W Griffith was a southerner, born and raised in Kentucky, he believed what he was making to a violent degree and he was serious about his work and what he was doing. Though his film promoted racism and hatred, it should not be completely condemed in our culture. Griffith is surely on of the greatest filmakers of our time.
The Birth of a Nation
The Birth of a Nation remains one of interesting works in the history of America. Ismail Khejjou
- Dolores McCann
I thought this movie was realistic. I know it could be offensive to blacks AND/OR whites. But if thats the truth, then we need to know. We need to see what can happen in politics because of major problems within our country. We need to see the repercussions! This is a good wake up call for ALL politicians. I am very glad I watched it!
such an accomplished silent film, such a vile racist message that Hitler must have loved it. this film should not be shown on TCM, especially in the 8pm time slot. it's a piece of crap today as much as it was when first released.
My first silent film. Loved it.
After seeing this movie, I can't help but feel how much Black Americans had to overcome in overturning monsterous stereotypes. It is a great document of bigotry in America at the turn of the century. I did not know if to laugh or cry at what I was seeing on screen.
***Big Load of TRUE RACIST CRAP***
WOW!!Thank God for the Second Amendment.I'm Ready for you, anytime anyplace.
i haven't even seen this movie yet, hence no rating (but i am watching it tonight >^^<)however, are people really rating this based on its being "racist?" you realize it was made in 1915 by a white southern director, right? k just checking. if you like pc, you probably shouldn't be watching anything made before 1995, JUST SAYIN
A complex film from a complex director
It is clearly a powerful film, even if not true. And considering it is over 3 hours long and silent, it certainly holds your attention. Many do not like it due to its content. It may be responsible for resurrecting the KKK in 1915 and for lynchings (look up Leo Frank on wikipedia). Similar to Nazi propaganda, it glorifies a group known to be destructive. I missed that period of this nation's history by a couple of years (or more). My great grandfather lived through it, but I never got to talk to him.But it's that close - and continues to this day. Doubtful these intolerance problems will ever go away. You could watch INTOLERANCE: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages. A very different film. Same director.
Was it prejuidice, or just plain fear?
I had read a lot about this film, including TCM's article which states "Interestingly enough, during a showing of The Birth of a Nation - many decades later - to an all-black audience at Howard University in Washington, D.C., when the poor Pet Sister jumped to her death, the black audience stood up and cheered." I thought she did this ONLY because she IMAGINED would happen because of her own stereotypical belief of black men. After I saw the scene, that is not all that happened. He was chasing her for quite a while and over a distance, why? She was afraid and OBVIOUSLY trying to get away from him, for whatever reason. At no point does he GET IT and STOP chasing her. Why didn't he say "I mean you no harm and walk away?" Yet he continues to pursue her to the edge of a precipice and never backs off.I see this less about race and more about one person's insensitivity to another.The rest of the film is absolutely ridiculous. Blacks immediately powerful and oppressing whites? KKK heroes? Please! I can't believe ANYone let alone Woodrow Wilson bought this diThat being said, I find it hard to believe that anyone outside of the vanquished believed this version of history. To think the the blacks were suddenly powerful and immediately began oppressing whites UTTERLY RIDICULOUS. Thee KK are heroes? Nonsense! I can't believe Woodrow Wilson was swayed. Didn't he form The League of Nations? I though the was smarter than that.That said, the rest of the movie us utterly ridiculous. I can't see anyone believing such a twisted view that the blacks were suddenly powerful, began immediately oprressing whites and the KKK were a bunch of heroes. It is appaling that Woodrow Wilson could have been mislead. He promoted the League of Nations, I thought he was more intelligent than that!
Never want to see this.
It is a movie of rascism and hate. Singing in The Rain is one million times better than this.
Get A Grip!
For the time this movie was a masterpiece of filmography! True the film was missing large portions of fact, it is a MOVIE DRAMA, not a DOCUMENTARY! The movie was designed to get a response and it did. It was the ignorant audiance (Including President Woodrow Wilson) who took it as 110% gospel fact! The movie for the time was trying to take a SOUTHERN LOOK at the KKK and a view of the BLACK RACE! If you examine the movie from today's perspective it is a bigoted, prejudice movie that belittles the black race and champions the KKK as heroes. Notice within the next couple of years after the movie the explosion of a resurgence in the KKK which had membership grow to the millions of people which included anti-Catholic, and immogrants coming to this country along with Jews and green martians! If you weren't a white protestant american bred person, you were an "Undesirable". That was the mindset of America in the late teens and 1920's in america, get over it and learn to study film and history rather than criticise it.
Good use of creative License
I love how the director used the cameras to tell the story so vividly. It's really good at the beginning, but I do have a problem with the view used for the Klansmen as heroes. While they were,( as the movie portrays)the champions of Jim Crow laws, they weren't the champions of America. This film's place in cinematic history is definitely well deserved.
The Birth of A Nation
This film would have been so much better if it wasn't so prejudice. At first the movie starts out good. It shows two families, one from the South the other from the North. You get to take a look at how diffrent there lives really were. It is good the very big names of the time in this film. There is Lillian Gish, Wallace Reid, Robert Harron, Mea Marsh, and Henry B. Walthall. When the Northern family comes to visit the Sounthern family they find out that there will be a war. The battle sence are pretty amazing. But it is not until the Reconstruction that it really gets bad. It is quit shocking to see a young girl killing herself and then a former slave get blamed for it. Also it is shocking that the ku klux klan is portrayed as the heros. D.W. Griffth should have studyed harder on this one. Some of the things that they said happened did not! If you want to see this movie or get it, I don't think it is wrong. But remember after the Reconstruction it get's very bad.
Subject matter taints masterpiece.
Racism aside, D.W. Griffith's, Birth of a Nation should be viewed for it's technical advancements whether than for it's subject matter. Closeups, editing, and the way the camera constantly moves are areas of filmmaking that hadn't been explored. America at that time was primarily homogenized. Any film historian will sight above all other considerations Mr. Griffith was a skilled technician and his film a superior contribution against the silent era.
After seeing this movie, it is amazing how far the portrayal of African Americans in cinema have come. It's bad enough whites in blackface, but the Klan as heroes? How absurd! I do recommend this movie to all. You could not imagine how derogatory this movie is without experiencing it for yourself.
Michael needs Hooked on Phonics
Michael is a compelte idiot. He has no clue of what happen during this time. He needs to learn how to read and not go by everything he sees in the movies. Especially when it is slanted by prejustice and bigotry.
I couldn't believe my eyes!
I had heard of this movie but this was my first viewing. This is the most inaccurate portrayal of blacks in the South or any other place in the U.S. I'd seen whites in blackface before, but this was just too ridiculous! And the KKK to the rescue? What's horrifying is that some people believe this to be an accurate account. True, one viewing was enough. I don't want ANYONE to think that this was the birth of this nation!
A look at our past
This movie accuratly shows how things were back in the post civil war times. White people sometimes had to protect themselves from the newly freed blacks rampaging through the south.
God, no, not in 2006
Just stop showing this movie, as well as, Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Racism At Its Finest Hour.
- Lynda Wright
I am a descendant of slaves who built America with their bare hands. I condemn the ideals that that this film stands for.As you know slavery still exists in other parts of the world. Insist that America acts to stop the genocide and slavery in Darfur.
A Racist Landmark
- Thomas Dyja
To show this film and describe it without any historical context on this site--my cable system actually gives it four stars and simply says it's the story of two families after the Civil War!--is shocking and sad. Technically it is indeed a landmark. Historically, it had no small hand in stirring racist hatred that led to a surge in lynchings and racial violence in the teens and twenties, including the resurrection of the Klan. Griffith and Thomas Dixon, author of the novel The Klansman, upon which the movie is based, were serious racists and to pass this twisted film along as if it conveyed historical fact as opposed to being a viscious bit of history itself is highly irresponsible.
One of the Greats
A landmark film that should be seen by everyone
For those of us too young to remember the civil rights movement, and with children who are growing up in an increasingly "PC" environment, it is important to have the historical context to understand tensions that still exist today. Showing "The Birth of a Nation" is a valuable tool for me, as a mother homeschooling teenagers, to help my children understand the history of racism in America in a way that books simply don't impart. By watching this film with a critical eye, we can have a deeper understanding of the fierce drive and motivation of the civil rights movement, an ability to recognize stereotypes that are still used today and where those stereotypes came from, and a better idea of how to fight those same attitudes when we see them today.Accurate history is important to understanding modern life. This movie, I am given to understand, accurately portrays the general perception of African-Americans by white Americans of the period. If this is true, it gives us a clearer picture of exactly what civil rights activists were up against, and a deeper admiration for the many obstacles they had to overcome.How is this a bad thing?
In response to R.Conrad's review.This movie is part of our history whether we like the facts or not. The good and the bad events have made our nation what it is today. Sounds to me like you're a glass half empty kind of person. Think of how we can learn from history. Think of the freedoms all of us in the U.S have today. Blacks and whites together, unlike the events described in this movie. Also, think of how much better we are today because of the horrors this nation has overcome. To use a common pharse, "deal with it" and move on.
- R. Conrad
Showing The Birth of a Nation can only open old wounds and increase anger. With a little encouragement, we could come together as one nation. Why must we continue to find more and more to seperate and divide us? Why?