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The Birth of a Nation


Roger Davidson

The Birth of a Nation
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A movie milestone, this was the film that raised cinema from a cheap thrill to an art form. D.W. Griffith's masterpiece details the lives of two families during the Civil War and Reconstruction Era. The drama revolves around the love between Southerner, Ben Cameron (Henry B. Walthall) and Northerner Elsie Stoneman (famed silent screen actress, Lilian Gish), and the hardships of the South both during and after the Civil War.

Still a masterpiece and a controversy after nearly 80 years, Griffith's handling of the production is both ignorant and brilliant at the same time. Although considerered a sensation when first released, it is to this day considered one of the largest pieces of work produced by a racist. The obvious racism towards blacks and the white-washing of the Ku Klux Klan have carried this movie's controversial depiction of race, a still "hot" subject, into modern times. Despite the racism, the power of the story has not been lost on filmgoers. In a more accurate portrayal of the times, this movie points out that the North was not exactly "saintly" in its treatment toward the defeated South-an aspect of the times many revisionist historians neglect.

There are plenty of memorable scenes, including the charge by Walthall's men against overwhelming odds and the infamous ride of the KKK. If for no other reason, it should be watched simply for what Griffith dared to do at the time and for his influence on the countless filmakers who have dared ever since.

My Rating = Four Stars

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