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Tired of hearing Silent Movie KKK Flim Is a Classic


WhyaDuck
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Who gives a damn if we can use that superficial term "classic" to describe it or not? The importance of The Birth of a Nation is unquestionable, its craft is fine, and its subject matter reprehensible.

 

Why not assail Gone With the Wind as well? That gets a guaranteed showing at least a couple of times each year and its depictions of black people and the old south are as damaging as The Birth of a Nation is (in different ways, of course) yet we don't hear nearly as much about it. So it's okay to show the foolish, jovial, contented slave of an old Hollywood film on TV (and "Classic" Hollywood films are full of these and similarly damaged depictions of African Americans) but it's not okay to show The Birth of a Nation once every few years?

 

Whenever Birth rears its head it always comes with notes about its content and context as well as Griffith's racism. It is inescapable. It is fully discredited in terms of its subject. The vast majority of people who will watch it do so in the manner of Eisenstein's Strike, Potemkin, and October - examples of socio-political thought of the era, revealing looks at propaganda, and as fine, groundbreaking aesthetic examples of cinema.

 

It was the most popular film of the 1910s. It is the culmination of cinematic technique up to that point. Its effect on American culture was profound. It's an important part of Griffith's history, film history, Hollywood history, and even of American history. Deal with it.

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*Sounds like this could become a thread about the b-word. LOL*

 

*Banning.*

 

Haven't we had a lengthy thread about that very topic recently? As I recall, you had quite a lot to say on the subject.

 

Perhaps you should revive that thread if you want to talk about banning a film.

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> {quote:title=Im4movies2 wrote:}{quote}

> A classic it is not. We should all know that, but HISTORIC it is and we can't deny that. Like the Civil War it is history and we know how horrible that was.

 

Excellent post. I couldn't as the saying goes agree more.

 

There's a sidebar issue that I will probably make a separate thread about...this kind of censorship or unwillingness to look at all aspects of history in film narratives (especially the more unsavory aspects of society) is what caused the code to be put in place and it gives us a 'false history.'

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Well this is part of our history, like it or not. This movie has one drawback, its title. The original release was called "The Clansmen" and that title should have stayed. Calling it "The Birth of a Nation" is very misleading. People who never heard of this movie or don't know its plot would think it was a type of history movie of how the United States came to be. In other words a "How the West Was Won" type of movie

 

Before I became a member here that's exactly what I thought the movie was about. Ignorant me!! :(

 

We must learn from history but as we all know not everyone does. Today in the 21st century we still have the **** (they are trying to pass themselves off as something a little different) skinheads, neonazis, etc.

 

Apparantly this country still has a *long* way to go. The U.S. is 230+ years old and still have growing pains?

 

Edited by: hamradio on Nov 4, 2010 12:46 PM

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It's a great film technically and historically. It's an important film that still packs an emotional punch. That's my opinion.

 

However, if you don't like this film (or any other), then just don't watch it. How hard is that?

 

Don't get me started on the people who want to ban movies or books or whatever because they don't like them.....

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What has always fascinated me about Griffith is that there isn?t a major filmmaker who has ever felt he wasn?t worthy of some consideration towards a definition that Griffith was and will most likely remain, the single most important, influential figure in the history of American film. Griffith is the starting point towards an artistic expression and development to the infinite possibilities surrounding motion pictures. His ideas and foresight led the way for so many after him to follow and make the motion picture a true art form. Somebody had to be first and whether we like it or not, it?s always been Griffith who during the early half of the 20th Century, overshadowed all his contemporaries. On the other side of his creative force were those he gathered around him that were instrumental in help shaping the modern motion picture as a storytelling, visual device. Everything there is to motion pictures and the list is long, Griffith either invented or he added new levels of accomplishment to already established methods.

 

On a more personal level of thinking, Griffith was in many ways a 19th Century man, living or trapped among the fast paced changes of the 20th. While he excelled in his quest to make motion pictures have a high degree of respect, he was na?ve in his mental capacity to understand the various social variations that time and circumstance brought about. As life and the echoes of human tolerance began to move away from certain traditional standards Griffith had been accustom to accepting, he stayed fixed and immoveable to his mode of social thinking. His beliefs were that the American state of secular thought should remain within an area only designated for those who he and others of his class felt were worthy of acceptance. All his life, Griffith carried with him this form of indoctrination from his family growing up in Kentucky that was overlaid with tales of despair and anguish from the time of the dreaded Civil War. He simply believed in these handed down traditions, veiled in a melodrama of emotional strife and a feeling that a terrible wrong had been done to his family?s way of life.

 

Thus, as he dwelled into his love for motion pictures, it seemed pretty predictable that he would finally tell his side of a story that had haunted him throughout his life. The Civil War was to Griffith his story and he held fast to the strong emotions he felt about the conflict and its aftermath. It was a situation he could never easily accept or come to understand. Caught in the middle of this dilemma of his social thinking were the African Americans. It wasn?t so much that Griffith was prejudice towards African Americans or even a blatant, hard-core racist. His ideas were discriminatory on a level of separation of the races and that only whites remain supreme over blacks. Griffith did say he believed in ?fair play? and that no one was above the law. But, in his final analysis, it was a sentiment that had restrictions. He saw America as a country for only one ethnic group to dominate and control its destiny. His cultural sense was in some ways gear within a framework of ornate, ostentatious and lofty attitudes that couldn?t flow so steadily or be rekindled, once his beloved ?Old South? and its traditions were (to pun an appropriate line!) all ?Gone with the Wind!?

 

The real problem and controversy of his cinematic masterpiece ?The Birth of A Nation? or ?The Klansman? centers on the way in which Griffith overstated and propagandized the Ku Klux Klan. The film was responsible in some circles for reviving interest in what for many was by 1915, a social group of misfits, bent on creating racial antagonism. The element of being a ?hate group? was what many people throughout the country came to see the Klan as and yet Griffith refused to see beyond the cross-burnings and lynchings that the Klan had come to represent. Of course, Griffith believed in the heroics and well intentions of these hooded horsemen who sought their own form of justice. In Griffith?s eyes, the Klan was what literally saved the South from what some called, ?The War of Northern Aggression!? So, what we have here is a man, hell bent on believing his form of history and what should have been its rightful outcome. This situation only gets complicated, if you get into the historic politics of the Civil War and then add the racial elements into the fray. The film might be viewed as a form of historical conjecture, but even then one can?t help but feel there are too many overzealous impressions being played with and a presumption that the Civil War damaged something as virtuous as having its deserved sanity. Perhaps Griffith just never came to realize as he suffered the woes of historical humiliation, his side plainly lost the war.

 

This leaves me to now say that although I don?t agree with or will never accept Griffith?s mentality and comprehension of history, his film is on all counts a work of art. The movie does deserve consideration from all technical angles of thinking. There is a high degree of quality to its presentation and an ability to even inspire those who seek a means towards an understanding of skill and what artistry there is or can be to a motion picture. Perhaps the most frightening aspect to all of this is that Griffith came to understand the power of the motion picture and what it could do to the human psyche. In the process, he appeared as if he wanted to change history or what the masses might have decided on what to believe about our historical past. A devastating point to Griffith?s movie is that it might be looked upon as a form of brainwashing, thereby seeking a sort of control over established thoughts and decisions about the past. It?s even in this department where Griffith creates an element of historical effect to a means of motion pictures going way beyond just the entertainment factor. There?s never been any doubt that Griffith wanted his movie to explode into a tirade of debate and reach a justification on his terms.

 

I might feel that Griffith was the first demigod of the movies. After his Civil War epic, he would continue on with his career, still creating some of the finest and most admired films in history. But, little by little, as the years went by, time and circumstance were always against him. The Midas touch he might have had early on began to elude him, until his creative process was marred by an atmosphere of chaos for the rest of his life. Everything he had worked for and created slipped away from him, until he ended up wandering around Hollywood, moving from one apartment to the next, always just ahead of the bill collectors! His story is perhaps similar to what we always read about a genius gone mad or someone who has a brief shinning moment and then the rest is shrouded in perpetual darkness. Griffith had his moment and we are all indebted to him for what he did for the movies. It?s just that *the man* and *his work* are two different or separate things for us to accept and even admire.

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*The Birth Of A Nation* hasn't aired in about 4 and half years. The Photoplay print TCM ran in 2006 was beautiful. Mastered from the 1921 re-issue, with original tints and tones. By far the best quality print I have ever seen of the film. And this version is not on DVD. I would assume that is what they are airing again. While Griffith gets attacked, consider that the Novel and the Play are probably both far more offensive then the film itself.

 

The fact is most everyone was a borderline racist who came from the south, rather we like it or not. It was in-bred into them. That's how they were taught to be, handed down from generation to generation. I'm not proud of it, but we had plenty of semi-racist's right here in Nebraska as I talked to older folks when I was young some 30 years ago, it was shocking their mindset against Blacks. And yet otherwise these were very good people.

 

The history of the race riots, outright lynching during the 1910's in Omaha is pretty embarrassing if not outright shocking. And the Klan was once very prevalent in this state.. There is a remarkable story about a local contingent being present in Lincoln's Memorial Stadium with it's own section to jeer the Catholic's during Nebraska's once great rivalry with Nortre Dame in Football back in the 20's. Pretty wild sounding stuff, but it happens to be true.

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> {quote:title=gagman66 wrote:}{quote}

> *The Birth Of A Nation* hasn't aired in about 4 and half years. The Photoplay print TCM ran in 2006 was beautiful. Mastered from the 1921 re-issue, with original tints and tones. By far the best quality print I have ever seen of the film. And this version is not on DVD. I would assume that is what they are airing again. While Griffith gets attacked, consider that the Novel and the Play are probably both far more offensive then the film itself.

>

> The fact is most everyone was a borderline racist who came from the south, rather we like it or not. It was in-bred into them. That's how they were taught to be, handed down from generation to generation. I'm not proud of it, but we had plenty of semi-racist's right here in Nebraska as I talked to older folks when I was young some 30 years ago, it was shocking their mindset against Blacks. And yet otherwise these were very good people.

>

> The history of the race riots, outright lynching during the 1910's in Omaha is pretty embarrassing if not outright shocking. And the Klan was once very prevalent in this state.. There is a remarkable story about a local contingent being present in Lincoln's Memorial Stadium with it's own section to jeer the Catholic's during Nebraska's once great rivalry with Nortre Dame in Football back in the 20's. Pretty wild sounding stuff, but it happens to be true.

 

As a Southerner who has Irish ancestors who go all the way back to the Revolutionary War and fought in The War for Southern Independence for the South, it is refreshing to see your honesty about race relations in this country.

 

Some of the biggest **** chapters were in states like Ohio and Indiana.

 

History should never be whitewashed.

 

By the way, my ancestors never owned slaves or belonged to the ****.

 

Edited by: JakeHolman on Nov 5, 2010 10:38 AM

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I want to compare this film, "Birth of A Nation" with a film which I saw in college, "Triumph of the Will". This film glamorizes the Nazi and their propaganda. I have read many reviews and opinions about this film over the years. The majority of the reviews view this film as a masterpiece in filmmaking. Even though D.W. Griffith's "Birth of the Nation" and Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will" have been stamped with the "masterpiece" tag for their use of film making techniques which were ahead of its time, the subject matter which is dealt with in the respective films are grotesque, bitter and awful. I writhe at times as I watch both of these films but I kept in mind the filmmaking techniques which were being exhibited by both directors which kept me anticipating the next shot and scene.

 

It would be interesting to see if the TCM Programmer would consider placing "Triumph of the Will" on TCM in the upcoming future and if the reaction from TCM Nation of this film being scheduled would be as it is for "Birth of the Nation".

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> {quote:title=thomasterryjr wrote:}{quote}

> It would be interesting to see if the TCM Programmer would consider placing "Triumph of the Will" on TCM in the upcoming future and if the reaction from TCM Nation of this film being scheduled would be as it is for "Birth of the Nation".

 

That's a great idea. And TCM could show some Al Jolson movies in-between those two! Wow, what a night!

 

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Xd-upEKZYuI/S9v7vZ1rA-I/AAAAAAAAB68/u31VYkyRFA8/s1600/white_xmas_al_jolson.jpg

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*"It would be interesting to see if the TCM Programmer would consider placing "Triumph of the Will" on TCM in the upcoming future and if the reaction from TCM Nation of this film being scheduled would be as it is for "Birth of the Nation"."* - thomasterryjr

 

TCM has shown *Triumph Of The Will*. It and *Olympia* were part of a month-long look at documentary films in November 1999. (One of the very best months of TCM. Ever.) That was the month I realized that TCM was much more than just a showcase of studio-era classic films.

 

I don't know how TCM could incorporate it into the schedule again - unless it was part of "TCM Imports". That might work.

 

Kyle In Hollywood

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I don't know how much of the original book Griffith kept for the movie, and whether

he envisioned this as a movie to further the thesis of racism, or if he just saw it as an

epic tale that would work well for cinematic adaptation. Maybe it was both. On the

other side, there is no doubt that Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will was conceived as

a propaganda piece from the very start with the goal of showing the Nazi Party in its

best light. And the one movie is a piece of fiction, while the other is a documentary,

however biased. Both movies should be available to the public for that's the only way

to judge them on their own.

 

I'd take a guess and say there was still a whole lot of racism going on in every part of the

US in 1915, but it was still most oppressive in the south. They lost in 1865 and again in

1965, so I do believe they finally got the message.

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