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Comments 1 - 15 of 27

CrazyMcLazy's avatar


Is the film technically innovative? Yes. But it's hard for me to watch people heap praise on the film and also try to excuse its content when the film itself led to a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan and open racial discrimination that lasted until the 1970s. In the South, it was like lighting a powder keg. And in case there are any questions, Griffith was racist. Sorry to break it to you. So was President Woodrow Wilson. President Wilson helped legitimize the film's version of history by endorsing it. President Wilson himself was good friends with Thomas Dixon, the author of the novel. It was a product of the times, but that doesn't make it ok.
10 years 5 months ago
the3rdman's avatar


A disgusting yet fascinating look at white paranoia and negrophobia in America. From nostalgia for slavery and the old days of the "civilized" South and fears of miscegenation, to the myth of rape used to justify lynching in the post-slavery era and the violent intimidation of black voters, the film is as much an epic about racism in America as it is about the division of the North and South. Add to that models of feminine purity and vulnerability, and you essentially end up with this white male fantasy parading itself as historical drama. Hyvaa, if you really think that the primary reason that Griffith is accused of racism is using white actors in blackface, you have a lot to learn.
Technically, the film is of course highly accomplished--exceptional, in fact, especially for a film made in the 1910s. Nobody denies this. But I really don't think that it's an adequate reason not to be outraged by its many flaws.
10 years 10 months ago
Crentist852's avatar


It goes without saying, but blackface is the least of this movie's problems.
9 years 5 months ago
Big A2's avatar

Big A2

The first half was great, the second half was disturbing, and at often times unintentionally funny when the intertitles mimic the accent of African Americans; "Dem free-niggers f'um de N'of am sho' crazy". The film claims historical accuracy when this clearly isn't the case. White votes are pushed from ballot boxes on election day by black soldiers, then negro members of the House of Representatives drink alcohol, put their feet on the table, and (I'm not making this up) stand around eating fried chicken. But don't worry folks! The Klan comes in to save the day. D. W. Griffith may have invented techniques still used to this day and been one of Hollywood's first autuers, but for making a movie like this, he’s also a complete idiot.

"I'm not black, but there's a whole lotsa times I wish I could say I'm not white!" - Frank Zappa
12 years 6 months ago
TheMajor's avatar


This movie really is a masterpiece, racism or no racism. You can't really judge this movie if it's the only movie you've seen of the pre-20's. It seems that for many people it is.

By the way, intertitles with African American accents are common in all silent films.

I’d like to re-post what I wrote on this film some time ago because I made some additions.

A great film, most certainly a masterpiece, a great plot, good acting, great action, great editing, great camerawork. I have yet to find a serious review by anyone who does not agree on these points.

It gets downvoted a lot because of its racism, and yes, some titles are quite shocking and yes, the second part "Reconstruction" is very racist. This latter part is the part which is based on the novel by Thomas Dixon. Dixon himself, as is quite obvious from various letters he wrote in defense of the picture, is a very negrophobic man. After reading some statements by Griffith himself, his opinions were probably the same albeit to a lower degree.

Today, a film like this would probably be refused by regular theaters, or at least only get a limited release on DVD. You may be surprised, things were different back in 1915. The Southerners still remembered the war. Their children, contemporaries of Griffith and Dixon, recalled stories about the war as told by their parents, which influenced their opinion on the race issues in the South. But the film did get a lot of criticism as well (some people make you believe that everybody hated blacks in 1915, this is not true). Millions of letters have been written to the authorities and the producers in disapproval of this film. White liberals supported the heavy opposition to the picture led by the NAACP. As a result it was banned by some cities/theaters. The Board of Censorship at first hesitated, but in the end they approved. Some scenes were cut, including two rape scenes and the original ending. The NAACP was unsuccesful in their numerous attempts to have the picture cut more extensively or banned altogether. All they could do was convince a bunch of mayors to ban the film. It wasn’t shown in some parts of Iowa because they had a law that prohibited plays that could excite racial tensions.

For the most part the film is well-researched, but some historical facts have been ignored or (intentionally) misrepresented in Dixon's novel. These errors are also present in the film and I doubt that Griffith was aware of this. But no historical film is without inaccuracies. Lynchings and rapes did occur. Its fault lies in the excessiveness and frequently exaggerated display of the crimes committed by the blacks. The original ending consisted of a scene in which all blacks are deported back to Africa, a solution Dixon fanatically supported in his writings, and I assume Griffith didn’t disagree, for he included it in his film.

In response to this film the so called ‘Sullivan bill’ was proposed. I think we should be grateful that this bill was not passed. It would have enabled the States to ban any movie, play or any other form of entertainment that could “excite racial or religious prejudice or tends to a breach of the public peace”. It reminds me of the recently proposed SOPA bill; I wouldn’t want censorship or some law that inhibits freedom of speech.

Before you give this film an excessively low rating, you should familiarize yourself with some of the historical aspects and other 'facts' concerning this film. For example Griffith's background, or the southern states for that matter. Dixon’s ancestors were in the Ku Klux Klan! A good start is to read Richard Schickel's biography on D.W. Griffith and “Focus on The Birth of a Nation” by Fred Silva. Also keep in mind how you would regard this film without the racism. Other films from 1915 really do not offer anything even close to this movie. Some Italian epics come close in spectacle but lack the narrative power of this film.

You may disapprove of it, but do not ignore its qualities.
12 years 5 months ago
chunkylefunga's avatar


Technically it's a masterpiece and you can see that it revolutionised cinema.

The storyline itself contains a lot of over acting and the ending is predictable; with the 2nd half going on for too long.

Historically speaking, it's worth a watch.
6 years 4 months ago
Rene Narciso's avatar

Rene Narciso

The first part was almost watchable. The second part felt like a deranged racist fantasy that was hard to watch. And I say this as someone that actually liked most of Griffith's other movies.
8 years 3 months ago
demagogo's avatar


I disagree on that this movie is still controversial. It isn't. Nobody who's taken seriously supports the views expressed here. However, there are a lot of movies and other media promoting America's foreign interests, quite a today's equivalent, and nobody thinks they're worth talking the same way.

And so what about technical issues anyway. Lot of films before did what this blockbuster "achieved", even from the very Griffith.
9 years ago
nick-samuel's avatar


I admittedly haven't seen much silent movies but thought the soundtrack helped to sustain my interest throughout the demanding 3 hours or so.

None of the scenes were shocking by today's standards. The underlying reality of racism is pretty horrendous though, although this of course goes without saying.

Glad I've seen it anyway.
12 years 7 months ago
tigh66's avatar


Is it racist? yes. Is it a masterpiece of cinema? yes. Do you need to watch it? yes.
14 years 1 month ago
BarbieLover's avatar


The original ''Republikklans complain'' movie for make this look like the fault of Democrats. And it's of course racist!
10 months 1 week ago
daisyaday's avatar


12 years 10 months ago
wilyhawk's avatar


This youtube video explains that this movie is actually not a technical breakthrough in filmmaking, because there were already other films that did all of the things this film is known for. It is important to remember the mistakes that America made in the past with racism, but this film is very over hyped for how special it's really not. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWroitR49Uc
4 years 10 months ago
Paper_Okami's avatar


I agree with Max revolutionary ,but racist and boring.
14 years ago
caiman's avatar


Yes, the movie is racist. But it's a LOT of other things too. It's exciting, romantic, and epic. But most importantly, it's stuffed full of more technical innovations than any other movie in history. Today we take for granted most of the filming techniques introduced by Griffith here. This film laid the groundwork for the motion picture as we know it. The racism is indefensible, but as a lover of film I can't in good conscience let that single aspect overshadow all the great things about this.
9 years 11 months ago

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