The Birth of a Nation (1915) 3xDVD
After watching D. W. Griffith's epic in 1915, President Woodrow Wilson declared, "It is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true." Meanwhile, the NAACP organized protests with regard to its portrayal of African-Americans.
Today, this milestone of early cinema retains the power to move us emotionally, intellectually and politically. Griffith has been called the "Father of Film." A failed actor and playwright, Griffith came to the Edison Studios in 1907. From 1908 to 1914, he directed 500 films.
Constantly experimenting with, and innovating, film technique, his work culminated with the masterpiece The Birth Of A Nation, the first American full-length motion picture. Based on stories by Thomas Dixon, this Civil War epic involves the struggle of two families: the Camerons from the South and the Stonemans from the North.
Like Mathew Brady photographs brought to life, the film contains splendid, authentic recreations of major moments from the war - the assassination of Lincoln, the surrender of Lee at Appomattox, Sherman's march to the sea and heart-wrenching battle scenes.
It is the film's second half, which deals with Reconstruction and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, that has created the greatest debate. Griffith would make Intolerance a year and a half later as a response to the controversy his film caused.