The Birth of a Nation, released in 1915, is silent picture show. D(avid) (Llewelyn) W(ark) Griffith (1875—1948), was a native of Kentucky and son of a Confederate colonel. He is widely recognized as the pioneer genius of American cinema and one of the greatest directors of all time. The Birth of a Nation” is a presentation of the Old South, the War between the States, and Reconstruction shown through the experiences of a Southern family. President Woodrow Wilson told Griffith that he had written history with lightning. The film was immensely popular in its own time. Later generations have considered it melodramatic and racially insensitive. Its definitely Southern viewpoint has been condemned since anti-Southern sentiments came once more into fashion in the 1960s. However, Dixon’s purpose, as the title suggests, was reconciliation between the North and South, a popular idea of the time. This is clear from his sympathetic portrayal of Lincoln and of a Northern family. “The Birth of a Nation” has been reproduced on video in various forms, some containing an extended version.
In today’s social and politically-correct atmosphere people find it difficult to acquire much understanding from silent picture shows, and this one will prove more difficult than most, because at a few times the viewer sees images of K. K. K. in white hooded garb. Unable to understand the political pressures presented by the Republican’s political reconstruction of the conquered states, misunderstanding the picture images of that era is to be expected. Yet, The Birth of a Nation is a classic of its day and must be recognized in the Society’s review.
(A Member is encouraged to write an expansion of this review.)