The Birth of a Nation (1915) Review

The Birth of a Nation is a silent drama film directed by famous Hollywood filmmaker D.W. Griffith. It is one of the American Film Institute’s top 100 films in American history due to its trailblazing and innovative film techniques along with its undeniable cultural impact. The film drew controversy for the racial themes portrayed in the film as well as its valorization of the Ku Klux Klan. 

GRADE: B+  

I quite enjoyed The Birth of a Nation. It depicts some of the most interesting events in American history such as the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. Some of the action scenes, particularly in the second half of the film are very intense and captivating. This is saying something given the year this film was made. The scene where a freed black slave, Gus pursues Flora Cameron in attempt to rape her is enthralling and heart pounding. The stunning visual of dozens of men riding on horseback in their Knights of the Ku Klux Klan robes is impressive and inspirational. The character work done by Ralph Lewis (Austin Stoneman) is magnificent and he does a great job portraying a heel that is easy to hate. The Cameron family comes across as friendly and kind-hearted. There are stretches throughout when the film gets boring and it is difficult to understand the plot during much of it but that is due to it being a product of its time.  

The messaging in the film is very good. The film depicts a constant racial struggle between whites and blacks and believes it necessary the white race win that struggle for the betterment of whites as well as America. Early in the film blacks are depicted as happy and friendly but also easily excitable and very stupid. They behave like children in that they are very playful and hyper. They are a joy to be around and they are appreciative of their higher ups, but you would not trust them to make decisions for themselves or others. Later in the film as blacks get a taste of real power thanks to the help of white carpet-baggers blacks are portrayed as savage, aggressive, uncouth and a force that presents a serious threat to the survival of whites despite being incompetent in a variety of ways. In 1867 after the Reconstruction Acts, blacks outnumbered whites 101-23 in the South Carolina state House of Representatives. This is because White carpet-baggers made an energetic attempt to get every black person to the polls while simultaneously disenfranchising and intimidating white voters as well as blacks who did not vote Republican. Whites were powerless and at the mercy of black legislators and they passed a series of laws designed to persecute and humiliate the white population of South Carolina. During the passing of these laws the black delegation in the Congress engaged in unruly behavior in the State Capitol, eating fried chicken, taking their shoes off and being rowdy and disruptive. Loud cheers broke out when they passed a law to legalize interracial marriage. Whites were ordered to bow to Negro officers in the streets. It was an accurate depiction of what could happen if blacks were given absolute power and control of governance over a state or locality. White carpet-baggers managed and assisted the blacks in the passing of these laws to ensure their success and they were the driving force behind the radical changes. But they were simply acting on behalf of blacks in attempt to give them what they truly wanted. 

Blacks are portrayed as sexually aggressive toward white women and they desperately crave and lust after white women even though their advances are never welcomed. In what I think is the best scene in the film, a freed black slave named Gus pursues Dr. Cameron’s daughter, Flora in attempt to rape her. She fights him off as long as she possibly can but she gets caught on the edge of a mountaintop with a steep drop. She warns the advancing Gus that she will jump if he gets any closer and as he moves in, Flora jumps off the mountain to her death. This was the best, most emotional scene in the film.  

While blacks are portrayed as crazy, stupid lunatics who wish to genocide white men and rape all white women, albeit in an incompetent and unplanned fashion, whites are portrayed as disorganized and deracinated. They have no real sense of racial identity or racial loyalty. To the extent they do it is collapsing rapidly. Whites are too pre-occupied with hating each other and it results in a deadly and regrettable conflict; the Civil War. While it’s clear that the South is portrayed as the favorable side to the North, the conflict is regarded as a terrible, horrific tragedy that could have been avoided. Griffith is calling for a pan-White alliance and messages that whites in the North and the South need to unite in defense of their common Aryan birthright. President Abraham Lincoln is presented in a positive light as someone who hears the concerns of the south and understands the racial stakes, but is too often swayed by the Liberals in his sphere who harbor a deep, genocidal hatred of southern whites. Austin Stoneman who is based on the real life Republican, Thaddeus Stevens is the best actor in the film. He brilliantly portrays the Niggerish, mongrelized spirit of Thaddeus Stevens and the Radical Republicans. His militant demeanor makes him impossible to negotiate or compromise with and is an unfortunate creature the white race has to deal with. But much like modern day White Liberals, even he gets upset when he hears his Mulatto protege, Silas Lynch wishes to marry his white daughter.  

The Ku Klux Klan is valorized as the strong heroes of our race who should be honored and revered. I much appreciate this film for showing the other side of the story in regards to the Ku Klux Klan because nowadays you can’t find anyone willing to defend the KKK in mainstream politics. The KKK Knights are seen riding on horseback and they are strong and imposing. They give off a European vibe as they look like the Crusader Knights of the Reconquista. They are total badasses who are willing to put their lives on the line and have no qualms about using violence to fight for what is right. The KKK was formed in response to the radical societal changes implemented following the Civil War and they were there to maintain an orderly, White Supremacist society as well as intimidate blacks into staying away from white women. In the film the KKK kills Gus, the man who chased Flora Cameron to her death. The KKK is led by Ben Cameron, the son of Dr. Cameron and the brother of Flora. He leads the KKK on horseback across the town to retake control from the black legislators, police and the mulatto governor, Silas Lynch. Multiple white men and KKK members are killed in their effort to take back control of the state, however they come out victorious and are able to restore a functional, orderly society that puts white interests first.  

I enjoyed the film. It is highly impressive given it was produced over 100 years ago. The messaging is moralizing if you are a white person. White power is something that is not only good and righteous, but necessary. It is a silent film and there is no dialogue and much of the film is boring because it shows routine activities of daily life that are not interesting. However, the messaging is very good and it should be vaccinated into the consciousness of every white person in America.  

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