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The Birth of a Nation

Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the release of D.W Griffith’s film “The Birth of a Nation.” It is at the same time both an extraordinary artistic achievement which more or less created the art form of film; and a thoroughly evil production which articulates false and pernicious ideas about race, which in its time did great damage, a cost lives in the riots that it caused. At one level it demands to be watched and admired. At another it must be utterly rejected. It is in fact a monument to the important, but frequently neglected and essentially conservative truth, that while human beings are capable of greatness, they are also deeply flawed.