Birth of a Nation

The Birth of a Nation

3.8 12
Director: D.W. Griffith

Cast: D.W. Griffith, Henry B. Walthall, Miriam Cooper, Mae Marsh

     
 

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The most successful and artistically advanced film of its time, The Birth of a Nation has also sparked protests, riots, and divisiveness since its first release. The film tells the story of the Civil War and its aftermath, as seen through the eyes of two families. The Stonemans hail from the North, the Camerons from the South. When war breaks out, the Stonemans…  See more details below

Overview

The most successful and artistically advanced film of its time, The Birth of a Nation has also sparked protests, riots, and divisiveness since its first release. The film tells the story of the Civil War and its aftermath, as seen through the eyes of two families. The Stonemans hail from the North, the Camerons from the South. When war breaks out, the Stonemans cast their lot with the Union, while the Camerons are loyal to Dixie. After the war, Ben Cameron (Henry B. Walthall), distressed that his beloved south is now under the rule of blacks and carpetbaggers, organizes several like-minded Southerners into a secret vigilante group called the Ku Klux Klan. When Cameron's beloved younger sister Flora (Mae Marsh) leaps to her death rather than surrender to the lustful advances of renegade slave Gus (Walter Long), the Klan wages war on the new Northern-inspired government and ultimately restores "order" to the South. In the original prints, Griffith suggested that the black population be shipped to Liberia, citing Abraham Lincoln as the inspiration for this ethnic cleansing. Showings of Birth of a Nation were picketed and boycotted from the start, and as recently as 1995, Turner Classic Movies cancelled a showing of a restored print in the wake of the racial tensions around the O.J. Simpson trial verdict.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Karen Backstein
President Wilson praised it as "history writ in lightning," audiences flocked to see it at record-high ticket prices, and critics lauded its undeniable technical brilliance. But this landmark epic's sympathetic treatment of the Ku Klux Klan sparked protests by African Americans and fierce controversy that continues to this day. To watch D. W. Griffith's The Birth Of A Nation is to shift between delight at the subtle and brilliant acting of such Griffith regulars as Henry B. Walthall and Lillian Gish; amazement at the power of its innovative cinematography (by the renowned Billy Bitzer); and dismay at its unashamed racism, its dependence on "blackface" stereotypes, and its hysteria about the idea of miscegenation. Nonetheless, this Civil War tale, which follows two families -- one Southern, the other Northern -- through the bloody conflict and the bitterness of Reconstruction, is a must-see. Small and sensitively staged scenes, particularly the "Homecoming," still pack an emotional wallop, and the film's richly detailed storytelling, large scope, and visual energy helped change the course of cinema forever.
All Movie Guide - Lucia Bozzola
The conflicted legacy of this first American blockbuster epic rests on the combination of Southern-bred D.W. Griffith's landmark technical achievements and his racism, as his version of the Civil War and Reconstruction highlighted fears of miscegenation and the heroism of the Ku Klux Klan. Aiming to make the greatest film ever, Griffith deployed all the technical experiments of his previous movies for maximum visceral effect, along with a prepared score mixing classical music and folk tunes. With expressive close-ups and long shots, irises and superimpositions, Griffith communicated not only the monumental scale of Civil War battles but also the intimate psychology of his central characters. The climactic ride of the Klan to save white girlhood from black defilement marked Griffith's most extraordinary and influential use of parallel editing to galvanize emotional excitement. The longest and most expensive American film made as of 1915, Birth opened to raves for its artistry and record-breaking box office returns, helping to legitimize movies as "respectable" entertainment. Its force was hardly all positive, however, as the NAACP organized a public campaign against the film and demanded that Griffith make cuts; the film was banned in several states for its racism, race riots broke out after its Boston premiere, and it directly influenced the 20th century reemergence of the Klan. As paradoxical proof of its cinematic power, Birth of a Nation still arouses protests decades after it was made.

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Product Details

Release Date:
11/22/2011
UPC:
0738329083427
Original Release:
1915
Source:
Kino Video
Sound:
[silent]
Time:
3:12:00
Sales rank:
33,458

Special Features

Disc 1 - Music by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra (2011), in 2.0 Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1; ; Spoken Introduction by D.W. Griffith and Walter Huston (including the newly rediscovered intermission sequence); ; Disc 2 - The Birth of a Nation, restored by David Shepard of Film Preservation Associates in 1993; Orchestral score adapted in 1993 from the original Score by Joseph Carl Breil, in 2.0 Stereo; ; "The Making of The Birth of a Nation" (24 min.) Produced by David Shepard; Compiled and Written by Russell Merritt; ; Disc 3 - Civil War shorts Directed by D.W. Griffith: (Music by Jon C. Mirsalis unless indicated); ; In the Border States (1910, 16 min.); The House With Closed Shutters (1910, 17 Min.); The Fugitive (1910, 17 min.); His Trust (1910, 14 min.) Courtesy of David Shepard; Musical setting compiled and arranged by Robert Israel; Performed by the Biograph Quartet; ; His Trust Fulfilled (1910, 11 min.); Swords and Hearts (1911, 16 min.); The Battle (1911, 17 min.); ; "New York vs. The Birth of a Nation" Archival documents pertaining to be censorship battles over the film's 1922 re-release; ; Excerpts from souvenir program books

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Henry B. Walthall Ben Cameron, the Little Colonel
Miriam Cooper Margaret Cameron
Mae Marsh Flora Cameron, the Little Sister
Lillian Gish Elsie Stoneman
Robert Harron Ted Stoneman
Ralph Lewis The Honorable Austin Stoneman, Leader of the House
Wallace Reid Jeff, the blacksmith
George Siegmann Silas Lynch
George Andre Beranger Wade Cameron
Monte Blue Actor
William de Vaull Jake
Joseph Henaberry Abraham Lincoln
Jennifer Lee Cindy, The Faithful Mummy
Eugene Pallette Wounded Enemy to Whom Ben Gives Succor
Sul Te Wan Actor
Alberta Lee Mrs. Lincoln
Elmo Lincoln White Arm Joe
Walter Long Gus, a Renegade Negro
Bessie Love Piedmont girl
Maxfield Stanley Duke Cameron
Charles Stevens Volunteer
Erich Von Stroheim Man who falls from Roof
Raoul Walsh John Wilkes Booth
Violet Wilkey Flora as a child
Tom Wilson Stoneman's Negro Servant
Gibson Gowland Actor
Spottiswood Aitken Dr. Cameron
Mary Alden Lydia Brown, Stoneman's Mulatto Housekeeper
Donald Crisp Gen. Ulysses S. Grant
Josephine Crowell Mrs. Cameron
Sam de Grasse Sen. Charles Sumner
William Freeman Sentry
Howard Gaye Gen. Robert E. Lee
Olga Grey Laura Keene
Elmer Clifton Phil Stoneman
John Ford Klansman

Technical Credits
D.W. Griffith Director,Score Composer,Producer,Screenwriter
Billy Bitzer Cinematographer
Thomas F. Dixen Screenwriter
Robert Goldstein Costumes/Costume Designer
Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra Score Composer
James Smith Editor
Frank E. Woods Screenwriter

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Birth of a Nation Disc 1: The 2011 Restoration
1. Opening Titles [:09]
2. In the Southland [6:12]
3. The Gathering Storm [10:24]
4. A Call to March [10:06]
5. Scarred by War [10:44]
6. War's Bitter Sacrifice [5:37]
7. The Last Grey Days [7:25]
8. War's Lingering Wounds [12:26]
9. The Homecoming [12:55]
10. The Fated Night [8:09]
11. Part Two Opening Titles [7:09]
12. The Stonemans Move South [9:33]
13. Election Day [12:23]
14. A White Sheet [10:45]
15. Little Sister [8:37]
16. "Justice" for Gus [11:52]
17. Blood Vows [7:56]
18. The Little Cabin [11:14]
19. The Clans Ride [11:13]
20. Epilogue [15:17]
Disc #2 -- Birth of a Nation Disc 2: The 1993 Restoration and The Making of 'The Birth of a Nation'
1. Opening Titles [2:04]
2. The Stonemans in Repose [2:23]
3. With the Camerons [10:20]
4. The Gathering Storm [6:23]
5. A Call to March, to Dance [11:12]
6. Scarred by War [6:59]
7. War's Bitter Sacrifice [6:53]
8. The Last Grey Days [12:14]
9. A New Life [13:53]
10. The Homecoming [6:11]
11. The Fated Night [7:55]
12. Restoration Begins [7:10]
13. Sowing Discontent [8:20]
14. The Love Strain [6:03]
15. Election Results [8:52]
16. The Grim Reaping [3:45]
17. A White Sheet [7:38]
18. Little Sister's Fate [12:10]
19. "Justice" for Gus [7:32]
20. Blood Vows [12:37]
21. Elsie's New Suitor [5:52]
22. The Clan Rides Out [10:14]
23. Siege On a Cabin [6:45]
24. War No More [3:24]

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The Birth of a Nation 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Birth Of A Nation tells history as it was, not as the drippy pc revisionists would have it. White masters treating slaves humanely valor on both sides of the Civil War war crimes carried out against Southerners during the war cruel & unjust despotic rule of the occupied South and the Klan riding heroicly to the rescue of the oppressed White Southerners, restoring majority rule in the South. Something definately needed these days!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
One must keep in mind that this movie is known for its new techniques and methods for filmography, not for the story line. The year which it was released should say a lot both in the quality of acting, filmography, and the cultural mindset of the United States at the time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie was, and remains, one of the greatest films ever produced. Yes, in the year 2007 it is obviosuly biased, yes, it is offensive, and yes, you should be angry that people in the United States once actually held the views espoused in this film as a majority opinion. But, to use this as an excuse to say it is anything less than one of two or three of the most groundbreaking films of all time shows another form of bias. People who encourage censorship or avoidance of this film, also might like to pretend that history never happened, or that Griffith was not singlehandedly writing the language of cinema. I am always saddened that people like some of the other reviewers here would pan the entire concept of the filmmakers art because they disagree with the objectives of the content. They would take this otherwise excellent film and lock it up so that nobody could ever view it. I think it is far better that a film like this be seen in context, with a rational explanation of the history behind it. It is far more educational, far more entertaining, and far more honest. The story is a relic of a bygone and less informed era, a reflection of the times in which it was written. It is easy to hate for its terrible stereotypes and attitudes. However, putting aside one's own modern sensibilities, and appreciating the film and story for what it is, it is readly seen as a very well constructed film, with a complex and flowing story and tremendous innovation that has, along with Intolerance and a few other films of that early era, set a standard of filmic prose for almost 100 years. Apart from the terrible stereotypes and extreme poetic license in presenting history, it is still a compelling story, with a real knack for presenting the viewpoints and emotions of the individual characters. It is involving and believable, and transcends the passage of time "as do most of the best silent films". This a great film. It is perhaps not the first silent film one should see, but at some point, every film enthusiast, and every person interested in the history of race relations in the United States, owes it to him or herself to see this movie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a movie that everyone should check out. Even as a family. This is the most accurate portrayal of what it was like during the Civil War era. It made me feel like it was the good old days again...Grab this one. It will make you feel good. BY: TJ
Guest More than 1 year ago
This film stars beautiful Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Miriam Cooper, Wallace Reid and Eugene Pallette. It¿s the story two families during Southern reconstruction and the Civil War. This film will be a memorable and gripping viewing experience. Subsequent viewings only make this film better and better. With superb performances from all of its actors and D.W. Griffith's direction, this is a must see!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
D.W. Griffith, when he wrote and directed this, overstepped a line. There were no Negro actors or actresses in "Birth.....", just a bunch of White people doing White vs. Black. How could a white man possibly have any idea of what a Negroe felt as a slave? Dissapointing. D.W. Griffith did a little better 1 years later with the original "Ben-Hur". But this is very disappointing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As I am a proud member of the "drippy politically correct community", I should say I am also a proud white Southerner, but of the Liberal genre! Enough about me, great film that really is comparable to the propaganda films in authoritarian states. I am a knack for silent films and this one is a jewel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If I could, I would give this movie a zero. I'm sorry, but I was disgusted with this film. I had to watch this in US History while my teacher was out for like a week. Everyone was very offended by the whole "blackface" thing. And for the worksheet we had to complete, I wrote all the answers sarcastically, so did the rest of the class. At the end of the class period my class wrote a note to my teacher to never show this movie EVER again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The movie was not that signifigant, if we must look at a mere film to gain our understanding of history we are lost. To say that this is the greatest film ever is an injustice to the film industry. The ignorance of the film maker out weighs any potential value that this film may bring to anyone, regardless of it's teaching of history. As an Afrikan-American the treatment recieved by the whites in this movie is like apples and oranges compared to the racism that was going on then and is still going on now. Also, comments like those made by the Lone Wolf are indicative to not only our NATIONAL problems but also our WORLD problems, so , if we have an accurate account of history and not just Rome and beyond, then the reviewer would probably hate himself instead of the Fathers of Civilization"Beggining-modern times" and their heroic children. The greatest thing I took from the movie is that white supremacy was and still is the American way no matter how you dilute it it is still the straw that stirrs the cup. While I don't say rack it, I don't think it should be shown to any one other than those that are intertested in it as it is no different than watching porn, with it's tasteless use of black face and degrading language. This was the past and could be seen as that, if I was not told what context to take this and many other race related things.