Categories
film values

Film History Class: Birth of a Nation

At college more than 30 years ago, in one of the film history classes I attended, the instructor showed us Birth of a Nation (BoaN), directed by D.W. Griffith. He prefaced the film with a brief lecture concerning the reason the film is significant as far as filmmaking techniques go, and then at the end, he addressed the racism of the story. He urged us to try to separate the film techniques from the attitudes expressed in the story. During the film, a few students walked out. I stayed to watch the film to try to learn about Griffith’s techniques, but the underlying racist attitudes of the story were stomach-churning.

Having since learned of the damage the film did (revitalizing the KKK, etc.), I can’t justify in my mind continuing to show it to students in class. It turns out, D.W. Griffith was not all that innovative either. For more details on the many problems with BoaN, feel free to check out this thread on Twitter from @MoviesSilently, whom I recently discovered and followed.

Bottom line: there is no reason to continue teaching these myths surrounding D.W. Griffith.

Categories
film

Library of Congress Packard Campus Tour

On Columbus Day, 2017, I was able to go on a tour during the open house at the Packard Campus of the Library of Congress. This is where they process and store many audio-visual objects. For a film and media geek like me, it was a dream come true.

Film editing table
film editing table
rows and rows of sound recordings
rows and rows of sound recordings
file digitization
file digitization
image processing and cleanup
image processing and cleanup
automated video transfer
automated video transfer
film editing station
film editing station
audio equipment
audio equipment
nitrate film storage vault
nitrate film storage vault
film strip
nitrate film strip with damage

The Nuclear Bunker Preserving Movie History