The Birth of a Nation

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Christopher Guerrero
MCA 101
Prof. Harris
01 May 2013
Final Homework Assignment: The Birth of a Nation
The famed filmmaker D.W. Griffith helped make an enormous stride in 20th century cinematic history with the 1915 release of his creation, the Birth of a Nation. This film in known for its use of breakthrough cinematic techniques Within the process of making this groundbreaking film, the technologically innovative filmmaking techniques really blew the minds of people in the early 20th century.  According to Tim Dirks’s Filmsite.org, a web site offering comprehensive summaries of classic films, production began in 1914 and the film pioneered such camera techniques as the use of panoramic long shots, the iris effects, still-shots, night photography, panning camera shots, title cards with subtitles, and a carefully staged battle sequence with hundreds of extras made to look like thousands (Dirks). It also contains many new artistic techniques, such as color tinting for dramatic purposes, building up the plot to an exciting climax, dramatizing history alongside fiction, and featuring its own musical score written for an orchestra (Dirks). These methods of filmmaking eventually became the basis of how many, if not all feature films today are produced, edited, and directed, and thanks to the use of these techniques, the film industry has become extremely profitable, especially in American society.

One thing the film succeeded in doing was garnering much controversy due to the nature of its premise, the interpretation of historical events, and blatant signs of racism. In the film, we see African American men being played by white actors in blackface, and the men were depicted as unintelligent and sexually aggressive towards white women (such as the scene where Gus, a white actor in blackface, attempted to rape Flora Cameron, a white woman). The film also dramatized the origins of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and portrayed them as heroes (as with the scene the KKK...
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