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Birth of a Nation, The. 1915

film griffith based future

BIRTH OF A NATION, THE . 1915. 175 min. Drama. Based on the book, The Clansman , by Thomas Dixon, The Birth of a Nation was a technical masterpiece and the first feature length silent film ever made. It set the standard for future production techniques and virtually invented film grammar. However, as monumental as the release of this film may have been, it distorted the public’s perception of African Americans; glorified a racist organization based on terror, death, and hate; and ultimately undermined race relations around the world. A Civil War epic, the story follows the devastation raged upon the genteel South and predicts a catastrophic future if former slaves are allowed the right to live among whites, hold government office, and seek revenge on those who once oppressed them. However, all is saved with the birth of the Ku Klux Klan, a cavalry of sheet-wearing vigilantes who ride to the rescue, putting everyone and everything back in place. White actors in dark makeup portrayed the lead black characters. Cast: Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Henry B. Walthall, Ralph Lewis, Bobbie Harron, George Siegmann, Joseph Henabery, Spottiswoode Aitken, George Ber-anger, Mary Alden, Josephine Crowell, Elmer Clifton, Walter Long. Director: D. W. Griffith. Writer: D. W. Griffith, Frank E. Woods. Cinematographer: Billy Bitzer. Music: D. W. Griffith. Awards: AFI 1998 Top 100, National Film Registry 1992.

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