Ignominious Beginnings: ‘The Birth of a Nation’ and The Birth of Hollywood

By  · Published on November 6th, 2017

The industry has always had problems. Big ones.

As is fitting for the film industry, the debate about separation of art and the beliefs inside the art started as soon as filmmaking coalesced into a system. The film, The Birth of a Nation, was racist, vile, and – some argue – one of the most important ever created.

Separating art and artist is already difficult enough – how does one separate art from…art? And should we if we want an accurate representation of Hollywood history?

These questions come hotly debated in One Hundred Years of Cinema’s video on the subject, which explains the film’s importance to racist movements inside and outside the industry. It also dives into the film’s lasting legacy as a piece of impactful filmmaking and as a landmark achievement for the organization of a burgeoning industry. Having a problematic beginning to an industry that, to this day, is finding new ways to shock and disappoint us, is a fitting problem for the fans of the form to grapple with and one that makes the art all the more applicable to our society.

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Jacob Oller writes everywhere (Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Playboy, FSR, Paste, etc.) about everything that matters (film, TV, video games, memes, life).