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The Birth of a Nation

For Eng221 Fall 2012 By: Rachel Hirst
by

Rachel Hirst

on 5 September 2012

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Transcript of The Birth of a Nation

Released Feb. 8, 1915 The Birth of a Nation Original Movie Trailer Important Details: Director : D. W. Griffiths (one of the most important silent- era directors) He was referred to as 'the Godfather of the film industry' Writer : Film was based on Thomas Dixon Jr.'s play The Clansman, which was the original title of the film Brief Plot Summary: Highly controversial film poses as a historic documentary by:
Quoting real people and re-creating versions of actual historical events, including Lincoln’s assassination.
The film follows two families from opposing sides of the Civil War, the Northern Stoneman family, and the Southern Cameron family.
Set during the America Civil War, and spanning several years during the Reconstruction afterwards. John Wilkes Booth preparing for the kill Lincoln has just been shot. A perfect example of the way the film re-creates historical events. Historical Significance This film stirred more controversy than any other film ever had
The main reason - the film is blatantly racist
In the film, Griffith portrays African Americans as unintelligent and sexually aggressive towards white women
It also caused controversy because white actors in ‘black-face’ makeup play the African American men, and the film portrays the KKK as heroic. Historical Significance shown through clips: Clip: a white woman who is pursued by Gus, a soldier who desires her hand in marriage.
This clip shows the fear that white people had of black people, and the racist overtones that are evident in the entire film.
It's also significant because it shows a white actor in black-face makeup playing a black man. Clip: The man who accidentally chased the white woman to her death is hunted and killed by the Ku Klux Klan.

Significant because it shows the white’s aggression towards the blacks, and is also one of the scenes where the KKK is shown as ‘heroic’.
The clip shows how their ‘punishment’ of blacks was ‘justified’, which is why this film is considered one of the events that sparked the “Second Era” of the KKK. Historicizing the Film The Film was made in two parts, originally separated by an intermission. Part 1: Pre-Civil War America, and part 2: Reconstruction. Film is an epic tale of the American Civil War Used many actors of the Biograph days Cinematographer : Billy Bitzer - who designed shots that included both intimate details of the character's lives and epic battle scenes viewed from afar As a film made during the silent era, the style of film is typical for the time:
Black and white silent film with captions every few scenes
Specially composed musical score accompaniment since there was no sound. During shows a special orchestra would play the score to help tell the story It was the longest feature film ever made at the time (1915) running over 180 minutes long and using twelve reels of film instead of the usual two. Film Industry Significance The Birth of a Nation's director D.W. Griffiths made this film a must-watch for its pioneering technical brilliance. Many techniques had either never been done before, or were advanced in the making of this film. The film served as a guide to the way in which the film industry would shift in the future As one critic, Steven D. Greydanus, said, “The Birth of a Nation is a magisterial synthesis of the lessons and technical advances of an entire era of film” Techniques used in the film: cross-cutting
back-lighting
point-of-view shots
fluid camera movements while tracking action
panning across wide scenes
expert use of close-ups
using panoramic long shots Examples: Back-lit scene with color added so the viewer knows it's at night. This shot is also during one of the impressive battle scenes. This is shot is a wide-angle shot during a battle scene.
The film made hundreds of extras look like thousands by use of camera angle. A close-up, during the middle of a cross-cut scene, to show the expression on the girl's face Why should you watch this film? It’s in Roger Ebert’s top 100 must-watch films list and remains one of the most famous films in history
It’s important to both American history and film history
It pioneered techniques and filming style from 1915 that are still used today
It’s one of the most racist films ever made More Examples of Racism: A Ku Klux Klan parade A shot of a white man with black-face makeup How they captioned the African American maid, speaking about a freed Northern black man A member of the Southern family refuses to shake hands with the newly elected Mulatto governor One of the most racist captions of the film.
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