MAP Studio Cafe, London


The Lost Film Society: The Birth of a Nation (Part 2)

  • Date: 20th September 2017
  • Time: 19:00
  • Location: The Birth of a Nation
  • Venue: The Lost Film Society

The Birth of a Nation

DW Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation is infamous now on many levels, rarely screened publicly, and has been consistently subject to picketing and boycotts since the moment it emerged. Structurally, it is a racist tract, pure and simple.

Griffith made the film as a work of propaganda, to reassure white Americans of their racial primacy, make reconstruction out to be a social catastrophe, and stoke up hatred against black folk more than 50 years after the end of the American Civil War.

From beginning to end, the film is pervaded by the belief that African Americans are less human than Anglo-Americans. In this respect, the film has no gray area: the Ku Klux Klan members are the heroes, appropriating the concepts of honor and nobility to suit their racist ends. The challenge for viewers and film historians alike has been how to approach this film that combines such stunning and innovative artistry with such noxious political and moral ideas. Often, film historians portray the golden age of early cinema with nostalgia, so the blatant racism in this landmark film often comes as a shock to students of film when they first encounter it. Above all, students are left wondering about the nature of this gifted producer and director who seems to be so forward-looking and so backward at the same time.

Director: David W. Griffith

Date: 1915

Run time: 165’

The Lost Film Society

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