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  1. #1
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    I'm busy on a DVD site, and one of the titles is 'Birth of a Nation'.

    I don't know whether to remove it because of the sympathetic portray of the KKK or to leave it in on the grounds that everyone knows better these days. I'm thinking it would be patronising to assume people will absorb the film uncritically and go round being nasty to black people. Then theres the 1st ammendment.

    But I'm genuinely undecided, so if anyone wants to vote on it I'll go with the majority.

    I

  2. #2
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    I would keep it. I think the film is an important part of American history, and you shouldn't censor it from your visitors. It was an amazing achievement in film production at the time, but it's content shows how different the popular view used to be. I think it's important for people to recognize how far we have come.

  3. #3
    ABW Adviser Panel Dynamoo's Avatar
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    Hi david11982 (and Icicle),

    I know that the movie is often shown or sold with a disclaimer about its content.

    Have a look at iFilm.com which has some interesting wording.

    Personally, being a Brit, the film is of no significance whatsoever culturally. But you could make the same comparison about "The Merchant of Venice" and Shylock, being fairly anti-semitic. The debate rarely surfaces because of Shakespeare's status as a writer though, the play is still widely shown and produced to very little resistance or controversy.

    But ultimately Icicle I guess that you'd need to justify it to yourself. Personally, I'd shy away from listing it, certainly away from promoting it (it's a classic of early American cinema, you could just list it somewhere). But if you believe the portrayals of race to be abhorrent, then basically I wouldn't touch it.

  4. #4
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    david11982,

    Hi and Welcome to ABW!<IMG src=http://www.abestweb.com/smilies/welcome.gif>

    ---------------

    I,

    A theme song to an old show ...

    "You take the good, you take the bad and there you have ... the facts of life!"

    ... include it.

    Haiko

  5. #5
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    Keep it! One of my gigs as a writer is as a silent film expert, so I can say right off that it's an extremely important part of American film history. It signalled the birth of modern-day film editing techniques. In addition Birth of a Nation was actually very controversial in its day for the same reasons it is now - even back then, the NAACP was protesting it! In addition its portrayal of the KKK and attitudes towards African-Americans looks completely ludicrous now - nobody could possibly take it seriously (I take it you haven't seen the film, or at least haven't seen it for many years?).

    If you are concerned about how people may feel about Birth and its inclusion on your site, you may want to mention that its attitude towards African-Americans was controversial in its day, and that it's an example of how much attitudes and society have changed since the early days of filmmaking.

    If you have any more questions about the film, you can PM me - I have a pretty big library of silent film books here at home and I can probably toss together some info for you pretty quickly.

  6. #6
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    Interesting everyone, - I'll see how the vote pans out.

    I wasn't planning on giving it any promotion - just including it along with the rest.

    Dynamoo,
    "But if you believe the portrayals of race to be abhorrent, then basically I wouldn't touch it."

    Thing is, I'm not about to single race out, I think, as being more important than gender or sexuality. Yeah, I find what I've heard about its portrayal of race as abhorrent, but I just endured 'Cliffhanger' last night. All Janine Turner does throughout is scream and get rescued!

    80 years and not a lot has changed. It justs gets more subtle.

    I guess I'm wondering if this film is so far beyond decent human standards as to be worthy of exclusion? But I don't want to have to sit through it to find out [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_frown.gif[/img]

    When I exclude a product from my site it is generally on the grounds that real suffering is involved. This means no leather or meat products. Nothing made in countries I don't like etc. And no product I know doesn't work.

    If I as going to exclude something because it was yukky most of the poster site would have to go :/

    Oh bugger.

    If I was to only include films I was totally happy with I'd have a whole page of 'Some Like It Hot' and not much else.

    If anyone of African descent wants to say anything, I'd give their opinion more weight. Seeing as they are at the butt end in this particular artwork.

    [Edited to add]

    Unless the vote takes a turn for the worse, I'll include it. And Janiss, mind if I quote from your message on my page?

    Dynamoo,

    Thinking about Shylock - I think Shakespeare had little choice if he wanted a professional moneylender as a plot device. Christians weren't allowed to charge interest at the time, so it had to be a Jewish character. His daughter Jessica is one of the good guys, and she's Jewish too.


    I

    [ 06-30-2002: Message edited by: Icicle ]

  7. #7
    ABW Adviser Panel Dynamoo's Avatar
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    Icicle: I'm not sure I agree with you on Janine Turner. Sometimes she carried bags and acted as a device so that Sly could explain what he was going to do next [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img]

    Hmmm.. I guess you either know what the film's content is or not. I suspect that you're only going to be watching a film that was made in 1915 for a reason (i.e. you understand what the film is about already) rather than because it's the only thing on TV (i.e. Cliffhanger, followed by the even more awful Death Train last night [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img] ) I mean, Battleship Potemkin is probably in the same league and it's hardly light viewing [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]

  8. #8
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    Dynamoo,
    I'm an extremely serious vintage film buff and even I groan at the thought of sitting through Battleship Potemkin or Birth of a Nation! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img] A Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd film is something else - now, they're still entertaining (Chaplin, too, when he isn't being too sentimental)! Also Clara Bow - amazing how, nearly 80 years later, she's still so vibrant and sexy. And speaking of sexy, there's Rudolph Valentino in The Eagle (forget about that bull-pucky The Sheik!).

    Icicle, you're free to quote me - or I can give you something a little more well-thought out, if you tell me specifically what you're looking for.

  9. #9
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    Something short to put next to the films description. I was just going to quote a sentence or two from what you said.

    I love old films, but as far back as I go is Errol Flynn. Who was cute, for a bloke. And looked like David Beckham.


    I

  10. #10
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    Errol Flynn - [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img] [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img] [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img] Way more appealing than Brad Pitt any day!!! When I first saw him in Captain Blood, I almost completely forgot about what a total jerk he was in real life (he was a lecher, and a cynical one at that, along with being a drug addict and just a general, all-around misogynist)!

    You might want to point out that when Birth of a Nation was made, a lot of veterans from the Civil War were still alive, and that D.W. Griffith himself was a Southerner (he was from Kentucky). That alone explains a lot of the film's skewed version of African-Americans. Incidentally, the lead black roles were taken by white actors (one of them, Walter Long, had a very long career as a "heavy," or bad guy and is especially memorable in Laurel and Hardy's films - without the blackface). Griffith was honestly puzzled by all the protests against Birth, because he claimed to love black people (of course, he saw them the way most Southerners did back in those days - as beloved servants, not as equals).

    Birth of a Nation, you might also be interested in knowing, was based on an equally controversial book (later made into a play), The Clansmen by Thomas Dixon Jr., a racist author of the day. While Dixon supported the original post-Civil War version of the KKK, he did not approve of what the organization became in the 20th century. Like many Southerners of his era, his racism was quite complex and something rather foreign to what people think nowadays.

    When Birth first came out, the NAACP campained against it, and even as recently as 1995, Turner Classic Movies cancelled a showing of it in the wake of the O.J. Simpson trial, when racial tensions were running very high. In spite of its controversy and unfortunate depiction of the KKK as heroes (ugh!), Birth was the most technologically advanced film of its day and a truly masterful achievement. It needs to be seen within the context of its era, when racism was a given and only white Protestants laid down the law in America (hm, not too different nowadays, is it?).

    Oops, didn't realize I was writing a book here! Anyway, now everyone here knows far more about Birth of a Nation than they ever wanted to know! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img] If you have any more silent film questions, I guess you know who to ask! :cool:

  11. #11
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    "Anyway, now everyone here knows far more about Birth of a Nation than they ever wanted to know!~Janiss"

    Actually I'm glad you gave that info. Some of that information I hadn't seen since high school history and it's a lot more interesting now than it was when I was stuck marking time in that class!

    Plus if I only read that the movie was "controverial" without reading just what the controversy came from I would have been curious to no end.

  12. #12
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    If you're just listing it, that doesn't mean you approve of it. Do you only list the stuff that you like? If so, then maybe you do need a disclaimer.

    Personally, I think that Political Correctness is abhorrent, and I take every opportunity to stand up to it. I can make up my own mind as to what to think, and people that insist that I have to think their way are very annoying.

    Of course, you have to decide how to react to such folks; how many flame e-mails are you willing to take?

  13. #13
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    Ah - Clara Bow - simply the most incredible actress of all time.

    There is a scene in Wings when she comes into a bar. The camera is focused right on
    Doug Faidbanks and Buddy Rodgers who are screen front and she is way in the back part of the scene - and she steals the whole scence simply by her presence on the screen.

    It's like whomever is in a scene with her just disappears into the background even if they are leads.

    Film is a mirror of the times it represents.
    Birth of a Nation is a realistic portrayal of reality.

    Americans, a one time treated, Africans as
    less than human - but they got the idea from the Brits.

    Slavery, whether in real terms or through economic class structure in the Westrn Eurpean tradition, was a product of Colonialism.

    But slavery has been around for thousands of years. Before 1450 or so, it was pretty much equal opportunity slavery - race, color or creed was not a major factor. After 1450 or so, Europeans got the notion they were superior and it became a 'skin color' issue.

    In any event most modern directors couldn't tell a decent story if their life depended on it. Take away the special effects and so called action scenes to suck up time on the screen and they couldn't sell a seat in any theater.

  14. #14
    Outsourced Program Manager Bryan Rhodes's Avatar
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    Icicle,

    Take it from someone who actually climbs, the worst thing about "Cliffhanger" isn't Janine Turner's performance. It's the portrayal of climbing as a sport. Granted this is a Hollywood movie, but a "Bolt Gun"? There is no such thing.

    I'd keep "Birth of a Nation" and drop "Cliffhanger."

    Bryan

  15. #15
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    >>Ah - Clara Bow - simply the most incredible actress of all time.

    There is a scene in Wings when she comes into a bar. The camera is focused right on Doug Faidbanks and Buddy Rodgers who are screen front and she is way in the back part of the scene - and she steals the whole scence simply by her presence on the screen.<<

    I've seen films from way at the beginning of her career - before she was the "It girl" - and she did the same thing. Clara was magic! Did you know she was only 27 when her career was over?

    I really do think films lost something when sound came in - some of these silent stars had something that just didn't translate to talkies. Either that, or I was a silent star in a past lifetime and I still miss the old days! :eek:

  16. #16
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    I'm assuming,if I remember correctly that this film was made in the 1920s? In the early
    part of the 20th century the Klan was a very
    powerful force in American politics,not only in the South but in states like Indiana.
    What I would concern myself with is the historical aspect,is the film accurate in their portayal of these events.you can't change history good or bad.Having lived in the South all my life I've seen a few white robes in my day and trust me it's not a good feeling because this was a very dominant force because you had business people,law enforcement,lawyers,public office holders and everybody in between involved and you didn't know who was behind the hoods.But let me say this they weren't as racist as you may think,they just as soon beat the crap out of a white man as they had a black man if they felt they had a reason.But I haven't
    seen or heard much in years from the Klan but it wasn't uncommon in the 70's and early
    80's to see them with roadblocks taking up money.Good riddance,all they did was to help hold back progress for years in the south.
    I hope this post was not too politically incorrect but it's the way I saw it and I don't think I'm racist,never have been.I'm what they call in the South a Kennedy Democrat.

  17. #17
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    Birth of a Nation was made in 1914 and released in 1915. It was actually about the Civil War days and the time just after the South lost the war, so its depiction of the KKK is actually what the Klan was just after the Civil War, not what it later became... as seen through the eyes of a Southern man (director D.W. Griffith) a couple of generations after the fact. I imagine it's about as historically accurate as any film made for entertainment purposes - in other words, drama takes precedence over truth. Its take on African Americans is utterly appalling - but in those days, unfortunately, most white people did not see it as out of bounds. Nowadays, those scenes are laughable and no one could possibly take them seriously (you have to see the film to know just how ludicrous they are).

    Geez - I need to shut up! I could go on forever about this sort of thing and I have work to do (ironically, the work today happens to be writing synopses of silent films for the All Movie Guide [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img] ).

  18. #18
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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Icicle:
    If I was to only include films I was totally happy with I'd have a whole page of 'Some Like It Hot' and not much else.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    A film that does nothing but make fun of drag quee - uh, what are they called now, the Gender Identity Impaired?

    Well, pretty cruel of you to push a biased film like that on the public.

    What do you want to be, a providor or a censor? *Everything* offends somebody.

  19. #19
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    That would be 'transexual' not drag queen. And I'm not about to object to Tony Curtis in drag, for any reason.

    [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]

    I

    [ 07-01-2002: Message edited by: Icicle ]

  20. #20
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    I was referring to transvestites (and making fun of the political correctness thing).

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