Birth of a Nation

Birth of Nation is a 1915 silent film based on Thoman Dixon’s novel “The Clansman” and directed by D.W Griffith. It originally premiered with the title “The Clansman” in February 1915 in Los Angeles, California but 3 months later it was renamed to its present title. The film still remains as controversial as ever due to its racist
D.W Griffith on-set in Birth of a Nation
D.W Griffith on-set in Birth of a Nation
commentary and its positive portrayal of the “Ku Klax Klan” and promotion of slavery.

The film is essentially broken in to two parts; Part 1 revolves around American life Pre- Civil War while the second part of the film focuses more intently on the reconstruction after the civil war. The film conveys the divide between North and South through the introduction of two families on the opposite’s sides of the spectrum. The North is represented by the Stonemans while the South is represented by the Camerons. The film stars Lillian Gish as “Elsie Stoneman” who falls in love with Ben Cameron, a man who has conflicting interests and opinions.

The film had an estimated budget of $110,000, while it broke box office records at the time grossing over $10 million US dollars. Griffith explored innovative technical effects and artistic techniques which has now become the norm in the film industry. For example “Birth of a Nation” was the first film of its kind to use techniques such as deep focus, jump cuts and even close-up shots. The film last for a marathon 3 hours and 10 minutes which made it the longest running film of its time.
Despite its controversial nature, it remains a cinematic masterpiece and still inspires filmmakers to this generation. In 1992, The United States Library of Congress declared that Birth of a Nation was “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and has placed the film in the National Film Registry. There is simply no doubt that “Birth of a Nation” has had huge impact not only on American cinema but also global cinema.

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