1915: The Birth of a Nation - Hollywood's first motion picture

1915: The Birth of a Nation – Hollywood's first motion picture



released in 1915 DW Griffith's a birth of the nation is one of the most important films in cinema history and is considered to be the birth of the American film industry it's hard to overstate the impact that this film had both on the medium of film itself and on culture as a whole the film was responsible for some major leaps in film technology including the first scenes shot at night by use of phosphorus lung along with new developments in editing technique and camera movement but culturally however the film carries somewhat to the darker legacy even in 1915 the film was met with controversy showing of the films were protested by the newly formed National Association for the Advancement of could people for his betrayal of black people executive secretary of the n-double a-c-p Mary childs Nerney wrote the harm that it is doing to cold people cannot be estimated I hear echoes of it everywhere I go and I have no doubts that this was in the mind of the people who are producing it the Thor's betrayal of black people was so terrible that it was still being used as a recruitment tool for the Klu Klux Klan as late as the 1970s with a runtime of just over three hours the film is split into two hearts separated by an intermission the first half is set at the outbreak of the Civil War it follows two families the northern Stallman's and the southern Cameron's it shows us their intertwined lives as they fight throughout the war it's filled with spectacular battle scenes and ends with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and a defeated South having to face harsh treatment at the hands of victorious North the second half of the film focuses on the reconstruction of the south after the war and the glorious origin of the film's supposed heroes the clueless clamp the film shows South Carolina just after the war being occupied by black Union soldiers who push white people off sidewalks and are sexually aggressive towards white women in one scene a young white girl jumps to her death to avoid being pursued by a black man who is looking to force her into marriage black supremacist rigged an election by intimidating white voters and stuffing ballot boxes and the newly elected black legislators are depicted barefoot in the state's a House of Representatives drinking whiskey and eating fried chicken meanwhile our hero Ben Cameron sees a group of white children putting on sheets to pretend to be ghosts in order to scare black children as inspired to form the Klan to fight back by the end of the film the Klan regained control of their town in the black oppressors and on the next election day they form a line to intimidate black voters and finally restore power despite the film's overall message of overt racism it was still incredibly popular he remained the highest-grossing movie of all time until it was replaced by Gone with the Wind in 1939 he was even the first film to be shown in the White House the President Woodrow Wilson on a technical level the film surpassed anything else that came before it by making use of new editing techniques like parallel editing cutting between two different scenes that were happening at the same time the film managed to show a huge scope of story cutting from the battleground two families praying at home and then back to the battle this wasn't just something that was happening to a small group of people this was happening to the whole country Griffith found new uses for close-ups cutting tights to an actor's face to show their emotion lending depth and pay folks to be acting with clever editing and camerawork Griffith managed to make a few hundred extras look like an army of thousands for epic battle scenes by moving the cameras around the battleground Griffith was able to produce a sense of space that seemed to span for miles and his pioneering use of long panoramic shots lent a sense of scale to the action the audiences had never seen before and helped cement the film's enduring popularity as well as technical innovations Griffith also bought innovations to story and narrative unlike the films which preceded it birth of the nation told multiple stories at once cross-cutting told the audience how one event affected multiple people and the first use of flashbacks gave context to story the whole film tied interweaving narratives into one rousing climax in a way that had never been done in film before birth of the nation changed film history and also set the template for the modern motion picture Griffith was able to produce epic battle sequences unlike anything people had ever seen before his use of close-up and intermixed narrative produce powerful drama that captured the audience it showed a generation of filmmakers what was possible to capture on film that you could tell grand stories on an epic scale and it remains to this day one of the most influential films ever made but its overall message is one of racial bigotry in which black people are painted not just as lazy and an intelligent but also as criminals who sexually assault women so what do you think can you call a movie bad just because it's message and implications are morally abhorrent or is it the technical skill within a film its beauty and the talent and artistry that went into it that's more important how should we view Birth of a Nation today let me know what you think in the comments and be sure to subscribe as we travel through the history of film together

29 thoughts on “1915: The Birth of a Nation – Hollywood's first motion picture

  1. The comments section is frightening. What's scary is that so many people actually think this is how black people think and behave or even that people don't understand WHY black people have this type of behavior IF they do indeed behave in this way. It's even scarier that people are saying this is a great film in the comments section. And they wonder why people want this film banned.

  2. Considering many people are largely influenced by what they see in the media, and especially at this time, the message overrides the technical artistry of the film. Entertainment was used as a form of propaganda to stir people into action, and many people followed suit. That's like asking if we should respect Hitler for having the "intelligence" to take over Germany and spread his message or think about the message itself. You can be a good general, but what are you fighting for?

  3. Looks like the depiction of the negroids in this film is a forewarning of their true nature, as it is now revealed to society in the early 21st century.

  4. omg Charlie , have you ever seen this?
    https://youtu.be/AnXZsdJERUI

    i thought it was very funny , specially at the near end

  5. This film inspired Sergei Eisenstein,Orson Welles,Stanley Kubrick,Hitchcock etc…. so it is a cultural treasure even with it's controversial plot

  6. to call a movie either good or bad seems to me like superficial judgement, which implies a decision for supposed more relevant aspects. how can you play technical innovations off against moral fundamental values? while the technical progress may be appreciated, the catastrophic morality should never be forgotten.

  7. there are movies with the same message in new era. american sniper has the same message with a modern facade

  8. Great video, but your ending question is like asking whether genocide is bad if done with great technical precision and creative flare.

  9. QUST: If the first "talkie" -film with voice – told a story of how to kidnap 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard, how to keep her alive but hidden in a shed for 18 years, and father two children with her without proper medical assistance, would AMERICA be celebrating that movie?!?!?

  10. every movie or a kind of art need have a philosophy behind the plot. The ideas of this film is horrible!

  11. "Reconstruction was the post-Civil War effort to bring the Confederate states back into the Union on terms set by the US Congress. Yes, there were some excesses, but basically Reconstruction succeeded in guaranteeing the black vote throughout the South and, despite fierce resistance by Southern whites, passing the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments that freed slaves and guaranteed the vote to all men regardless of race. The result was a wave of black leaders in the South, including mayors, state politicians, Congressmen, and even a Senator.

    Reconstruction did not fail. It succeeded so well that it was crushed by vigilante violence, led by the new KKK, which led bloody raids on black voters and, in the words of white Southerners, "redeemed" the South. Federal troops protected blacks for awhile but the North soon lost interest and pulled back, letting white Southerners rush in and strangle black voting for the next 90 years (until the Voting Rights Act of 1965.)

    And then Southern historians re-wrote Reconstruction, describing it as an era of black pillage and rape. Overall, it's a disgusting chapter in our history, one that should be better known."

  12. people saying "the message doens't matter, only the technical matter!"… do you guys really like cinema? do you watch and rate every movie purely by it's technical qualities? I agree that TBoaN is one of most important films ever made, but yes, the message and actual content of the movie affects how the work is perceived. If youre watching nouvelle vague movies for example you won't be rating by it's technical qualities, but mainly by it's content, what was trying to say and mainly the artistic value. Cinema is art, and art is not objetive, it is affected by a number of factors. saying that a film should be judged exclusively by its technical qualities is not knowing anything about cinema.

  13. I still can't fathom Griffith's decision to make The Klansman the basis for his masterpiece. He had the entire wealth of world literature and culture to chose from, all of it untouched by any other director, he could have done Shakespeare, the Bible, Greek mythology, any story from any era in any country in history, and he chose THIS. That's the great question that enters my mind, how does this genius get it into his head that THIS is the story he wants to tell, synthesizing all these techniques? Who brought him the book and said you HAVE to make this into a movie? When was the moment the bell went off in his head and he decided this HAD to be the subject for the first feature-length motion picture? And didn't anyone, throughout all of production, tap him on the shoulder and say Hey, this is racist AF? Not one stage hand, not one producer who put up money to make this, not one actor or cameraman pulled Griffith into a quiet room and asked WTF do you think you're doing?

    Let's not forget that, when motion pictures made their next big leap and with "talkies", Hollywood again had the opportunity to choose any story, any music, anything at all from all of world history, and they chose to let Al Jolson sing in blackface in The Jazz Singer. That's Hollywood, and that's America, just 90 years ago.

  14. The entire concept was based in fear; fear of black people coming into power after being suppressed/oppressed. I love the Arts but this was a masterpiece as well as a racist piece. And racists are racists are the same then and now.

  15. It took a step in film history but it is outdated. The film quality is subjectively up context, which in this case, is the fetishization of oppressing black people and grossly misrepresenting them. Y'all got some disease in yer blood called 'white trash'.

  16. I say, no matter how brilliantly executed a propaganda film is, it's still propaganda. And propaganda is not art. It goes against everything art is about. I personally think there's no value in a such film, cause everything in the film serves the main stroy, the main message. The story/message is the real content of the film, not the visuals or sound. So in a propaganda film all the efforts are basically being wasted because of the nature of the film.

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