In a nutshell: American History X, Y and Z!!!
Popcorn rating: 3/5
Deemed by many as one of the most powerful American movies of all time, The Birth of a Nation, an anti-black, pro-Ku Klux Klan propaganda piece caused uproar when released in 1915 by D.W. Griffith. Presenting the KKK as heroes and Southern Blacks as an inhumane threat to civilization, the movie is still used today as recruitment material for the Klan. To highlight its power in modern society, it was voted into the National Film Registry in 1993, and then in 1998 was listed at number 44 in “Top 100 American Films” by the American Film Institute.
Rebirth of a Nation is DJ Spooky’s 2004 reply to Griffith’s depiction and in true DJ form is a ‘remix’ of the original. Aware that a detailed remake was not needed as society has come on leaps and bounds since 1915, Spooky used the project to rework various scenes from the original, bringing them to life with a dark musical score, critical captions and, at times, amusing graphics to highlight certain expressions and scenes.
Rebirth is undoubtedly a powerful movie in its own right. Spooky’s decision to not reshoot any scenes or characters and instead manipulate, or remix, the wrongs off Griffith’s work adds a twist to his portrayal. Interestingly, Spooky decides to strip away much of the historic backdrop to most of what is going on – there is, for example, little reference to the civil war. He instead focuses, really focuses, on characters, thoughts, dialogues and scenes.
In closing, it is worth saying that although most people should watch this film, it is better to go in with your eyes open and be in the right frame of mind. I stumbled across the movie after a friend invited me to an exclusive screening at The Toronto International Film Festival’s home, The Lightbox, where Spooky hosted the movie, musicians performed the soundtrack live, and Spooky held a Q&A session. Without much knowledge of what I was about to watch, I was left moved, even a little disturbed. The movie, and Spooky himself, got a huge thumbs up from legendary Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, but what has stuck with me is how certain aspects of the original movie are still very prevalent in today’s society – particularly with certain powers that be, and how intelligent and educated people can still lazily and almost blindly follow them. This is a movie blog so I shall say no more!