Thursday, August 1, 2013

Birth of an Intolerant Nation

D.W. Griffiths' Birth of a Nation is billed as the first full-length narrative motion picture.  The story line depicts the Klu Klux Klan as a sympathetic misunderstood organization and African Americans as, at the very least, ignorant, while southern whites were victims.

A big part of the problem (at least for Griffith's) was that during Reconstruction African Americans came into political power.
Nowhere else in the South did blacks become the dominant force in gaining equality through self-governance than in South Carolina, the only state to have a black majority in the legislature during Reconstruction.
 Here's how D.W. Griffiths depicts that august body:


Today we wouldn't put up with this kind of overt racism and in 1915 when this movie came out many people didn't put up with it either.
The NAACP protested against the film’s fabrications and inaccuracies. Riots broke out in Boston, Philadelphia and other major cities. And Griffith’s legacy never recovered, even if he tried to atone (some say) in 1916 with the release of Intolerance, another masterpiece of the Silent Era.
"Intolerance featured massive sets, extravagant period costumes, and more than 3,000 extras, and, in grand fashion, it wove together 'four distinct but parallel stories that demonstrated mankind’s intolerance during four different ages in world history.'”

You can watch Griffiths' 3-hours of Intolerance at  http://archive.org/details/Intolerance.

Do current films portray and encourage intolerance?  How and why do you think filmmakers create these films?  To create controversy?  To get the public chattering abut their movie?

Are you a film or art major?  What do you want to show or tell the world through your art?

2 comments:

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  2. Whether we like to believe it or not, many films today still do encourage intolerance, even in a subtle way. Many films show the homeless man or alcoholic as an African American, along with both African Americans and Latin Americans being depicted as gang members much more than any other ethnicities. Now, I believe filmmakers today show this in this way because there is actual statistical evidence to back up these claims, however, the film can be just as realistic with a more diverse casting. I am not a filmmaker, but my boyfriend is an aspiring actor and filmmaker. The types of movies that he would create would probably show a lot of intolerance in many aspects such as African American rights, women's rights, gay rights and so on, but only to explicitly show the intolerance and show how wrong the intolerance is. HE, like me, is very much so, for lack of a better word, a hippie. We both believe in equal rights for everyone and I know he is particularly disgusted with the way people were and still are treated and that is why I think he could greatly influence this still intolerant world with his films.

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