47. Birth of a Nation (1915)

Film 24 in C4 Top 100 War Films

The South shall rise again! Well, actually, thankfully, no it won’t…

Basically telling the stories of two families, the Stonemans, who are Unionists, and the Camerons, who represent the old south, DW Griffith’s silent movie is viewed as a masterpiece of early film-making.

However, my take on it is quite different. To be honest, I can’t believe that anyone would vote this to be in any top 100 film list if they’ve ever actually seen the film. Ok, I will accept that technically, it advanced the medium of film-making enormously, and it’s solely on its technical merits that I mark it as I do. However, its overblown parading of good whites vs bad blacks sits very badly, and I think it’s the film reputation that determines its place in film history, rather than the reality which is that it is a nasty piece of racist propaganda that should have been lost forever, rather than promoted through ‘best of’ lists.

I accept that the American Civil War was chiefly based on the North’s determination to abolish slavery and the South’s equal determination to not allow the dissolution of its way of life, but a film that was so clearly racist as to cast blacked up white actors playing the roles as sexually aggressive subhumans, has no part in today’s world. By the time it reached the moment that it ‘proudly’ showed the creation of the Ku Klux Klan, I had turned the film off. I won’t be watching it again.

2/10

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5 Responses to 47. Birth of a Nation (1915)

  1. the japanese says:

    i am so glad someone else has now had to watch this drivel and hated it…. my eye is still sore from this unpleasentness! =[

  2. Miss V says:

    This is so what I thought… But then worried it was just me being super sensitive about it all… Glad it wasn’t and that it was a pile of pig poo!

  3. Bluej says:

    couldnt agree more…i remember seeing this movie is one of my classes at school it was shown as part of “history”…I think the only history the film documents is the history of racism in film.

    • slinkywhite says:

      I have seen a few old films that have some level of racism in, but are rightly or wrongly a product of their time. I don’t condone them, but I do understand that it was perfectly acceptable by the standards of the day, even if we find them crass and offensive now.
      However, Birth of a Nation isn’t like that. This isn’t a casual ignorance of the subject, but pure racist propaganda. One of the most unpleasant films I’ve had the misfortune to see.

      Anyhoo, on a lighter note, hello!! Nice to meet you and thanks for the comments! 😀

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