Jessica Dortch | Contributing Writer
The film event “The Birth of an Answer” brought history to your front door in celebrating 100 years of not only the American classic “Birth of a Nation”, but also the creative and culturally sound African-American responses to the film. The event “The Birth of an Answer” was held on Friday, September 18, 2015 at the Attucks Theatre in Norfolk, Virginia.
Along with an in-depth analysis of the film of the critically acclaimed film “Birth of a Nation,” attendees also had the chance to enjoy the world premiere of a short film produced by the Old Dominion University Film Program entitled “Our Nation.”
The short film portrays the Norfolk response to the highly controversial “Birth of a Nation” through the eyes of a young African-American boy.
The film “Birth of a Nation” is an adaption of Thomas F. Dixon’s The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan (1905), which essentially depicts the creation of the Ku Klux Klan, and their rise to defending “Southern White virtue” in the face of the transition of Blacks to freedom during the Reconstruction Era. D.W. Griffith’s adaptation
The film dives into its plot, following the fictional lives of two families, one from the North and one from the South whose families are united when their sons attend school together.
The film advances through the civil war and the Reconstruction from the perspective of the Southern family, and ultimately leading up to the father of the southern family founding the Ku Klux Klan, and waging war on the new Northern government, while trying to maintain the old order of the south.
Though the film broke through a variety of cinematic glass ceilings, it received quite a bit of flak from viewers, both black and white. One of the biggest issues with the film is how they represent black men, whom throughout the majority of the film were played by white men in black face.
The Black men in the film were unintelligent, sexually aggressive toward white women, brutish, lazy, and most of all dangerous.
From a historical perspective several scenes throughout the film were simply inaccurate such as the events surrounding Lincoln’s assassination, the meeting of Congress, and a variety of Civil War battles.
During the film’s release in 1915, riots and protests broke out, and the newly formed National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) campaigned to have the film banned.
However, D.W. Griffith’s film Birth of a Nation revolutionized storytelling and cinematics, but it also praised the stereotypes that shape the world’s view of African-Americans in pop culture. It is believed that Griffith didn’t intend to publicize prejudices, yet the film has since then negatively impacted the lives of real African-Americans for decades, and decades to come.
Pertaining to the event, the schedule for the night is as follows:
7:00pm – 7:30pm African American filmmakers poster exhibit on display lobby of Attucks Theatre accompanied by the Sherman Greene Chorale
7:30pm – 7:45pm Introductions
7:45pm – 8:00pm Debut Our Nation
8:00pm – 8:15pm Transition
8:15pm – 9:30pm Within our Gates
9:30pm – 9:45pm Transition
9:45pm – 10:30pm Multigenerational panel