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THE BIRTH OF A NATION Epic DW Griffith The Birth of a Nation by David Wark Griffith is a 1915 silent film based on the book The Clansman written by Thomas Dixon According to the liner notes included with this video re-release Griffith has been given the title of The Father of Hollywood with Birth being one of his most classic films He makes use of many accomplished actors and actresses of his time including Lillian Gish Mae Marsh Henry B Walthall Miriam Cooper Robert Harron Wallace Reid Joseph Henabery Don Crisp Erich von Stroheim and Raoul Walsh It is a story about the Civil War and the resulting Reconstruction era in nineteenth century United States history The first half of the movie concerns itself with the quest of the Souths separation from the Union and is full of some well choreographed Civil War battle scenes The second half depicts Reconstruction from a Southerners perspective This last half of the film leaves the viewer with a sense of the alienation that cultural differences exhibit through dominance for power regardless if that superiority struggle be with a single individual or collectively as a nation The Birth of a Nation seems a complex film for its time Several themes run through the film and it especially shines light on the development of identity categories such as race class gender and regionalism during the early twentieth century As I viewed the film I noted several connections that Griffith makes He makes differences between African Americans those as good blacks still loyal to their masters and as bad blacks or what Griffith terms faithful souls and renegades in scene sub-title frames This sheds light on his construction of race and racial relations segregation Two families the Stonemans of the North and the Camerons of the South are created to illustrate the conflicts in the films theme Griffith takes a decidedly Southern viewpoint in depicting a defeated and vanquished South
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