Tuesday, May 02, 2006

"Birth of A Nation" on TV

I've heard about it. I've read about it. Now, I'll get to see it with my own eyes.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that "The Birth of a Nation," D.W. Griffith's 1915 epic about the genesis of the Ku Klux Klan, is getting a rare national broadcast Tuesday night (May 2, 2006) on Turner Classic Movies. The movie depicts the fall of the Confederacy and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. The major black characters (sic) are played by white actors in blackface. The title cards for the three-hour silent film include offensive dialect and the N-word.

plez sez: I recorded the movie on my DVR and will view it when I have a spare 3 hours to watch it. I'll update this post after I've viewed it.

plez review:
Over 90 years and some things haven't changed much. D.W. Griffith appears to have been the master of the propaganda film with his portrayal of shufflin' and grinnin' darkies in stark contrast to the upstanding virtuous white folk in "The Birth of a Nation." Every device and stereotype is vividly displayed with great fanfare: the watermelon stealing bare foot black children, the nappy-headed and undisciplined black soldiers, the one white-loving mammy, the deceitful and untrustworthy mulattos, the shucking and jiving blacks legislators, a would-be lustful black rapist of white women, and the ignorant and inept black businessmen. The sad thing is that many of these stereotypes find their way into many current movies and television shows that are produced by Black folk (i.e. the Blaxploitation films of the 70's, the weekly lineup on the UPN Network, BET music videos, BET's Comic View, etc.).

Set against the backdrop of the Civil War and the ensuing period of Reconstruction, D.W. Griffin's epic tells the story of and glorifies the creation of the Ku Klux Klan, which was created to protect the sanctity and virtue of white southern women. Blacks took over the South, took away the White man's right to vote, and literally ran the entire region into the ground with their ineptitude and lazy ways. In the grand finale, an army of 400,000 white robe-clad men ride to the rescue and restore the South to its rightful place of peace and antebellum glory (with Black people resuming their subservient position in society).

It was a 3+ hour recruitment film for the Ku Klux Klan ... I now understand why the NAACP lobbied so vigorously to have the film banned. It has no redeeming social value and denigrates an entire race of people by painting them with a broad brush laziness, lust, and sloth. The most laughable part of the whole flick is a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie that states that the film in no way is meant to denigrate any particular race AND then it goes about denigrating the entire Black race with impunity.

The movie was very difficult to view because it was a silent film. Being conditioned with the fast cuts and non-stop action of today's movies and television, it was difficult to concentrate on a set where the camera NEVER moved and the actors moved in and out of camera shot. It took me 4+ nights to watch the entire 3+ hour movie that was decidedly slow in most parts. Something like this could never compete with the constant interruption of cell phones, text messages, and the lure of more interesting fare that has been produced in the last 10-15 years.

Post updated with my review on June 7, 2006


D-Place said...

Looking forward to seeing what you have to say about it.

plez... said...

As of Thursday, May 4, 2006:
I've been able to view the first two hours over the last two nights - it is a 3+ hour epic. It has been difficult to watch, not because of the subject matter, but you have to remember that this film was done back in 1915 and the pace is alot slower than today's films, there is no camera movement and the actors move in and out of the frame, it is a silent film with a orchestral soundtrack, and at various points in the film "slides" are inserted with verbiage about the action or some dialogue. I will say that it is a lavish production based on when it was made, but I'm having a hard time with all of the obviously White people playing the roles of Black people in blackface (the makeup is THAT bad)!

One has to infer what the actors are saying based on facial expressions and their actions, because there are very few slides with actual dialogue as is done with today's foreign language films or with closed captions. The slides may capture one actor's line, but you have to watch to see the other actors' reactions.

I'll be back with an update when I'm done.

Christopher King said...

Speaking of the Ku Klux Klan, watch this, and be sure to click on the "hereinbelow" link as well.


Unbelievable. As I state, they have a vested interest in seeing my former client do some time, and they're trying for me, too.

America may not be the Land of the Free, but it sure is the Home of the Brave, ipso facto.