Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Rebirth of a Nation |
Actor: Richard Davis
Director: DJ Spooky
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Television, Documentary, African American Cinema
DJ Spooky's provocative "Remix" of D.W. Griffith's infamous masterpiece. Originally commissioned as a live multimedia performance, Rebirth of a Nation is a 'DJ mix applied to cinema' that challenges our legacy of revisioni... more »
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Revisionist History Revised For The 21st Century.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 02/28/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I recently attended a screening of REBIRTH and came away quite impressed. I was primarily interested to see how it would approach its subject material, D.W. Griffith's controversial silent epic THE BIRTH OF A NATION. I was not familiar with the work of DJ Spooky aka Paul D. Miller as I am not as up on the contemporary arts scene as I once was. My specialty is films of the silent era and that is why our paths crossed. I am also a fan of the Kronos Quartet who contribute to the film's soundtrack which also piqued my curiosity.
I was expecting something visually avant-garde as the movie was promoted as a DJ mix of the original film material. I was also expecting another hatchet job on BIRTH as that seems to be all that anyone does these days in connection with the film's racist content but Miller has a lot more on his mind. He views BIRTH OF A NATION as nothing less than the beginning of media manipulation in the 20th Century.
The film, which appears to be taken from the George Eastman House print judging from the oversaturation of some of the color tints, is presented in more or less a straightforward matter although in abridged fashion (the original is over 3 hrs long) and with only a few scenes transposed. It opens with the 1930 interview between D. W. Griffith and Walter Huston talking about the film with the focus on Griffith's line "What is truth?". What follows allows us to see the film's virtues in addition to its obvious flaws. Miller is to be commended for presenting the original the way it is. He allows a modern audience to view it which they would normally never do today because of its racist reputation. He then invites us to follow his theories on what it all means for then and now. His use of magnification and moving diagrams to highlight portions of the movie is understated and very effective. His line of reasoning concerning the film's impact on subsequent generations and mass media in general is very convincing.
My one caveat is that Miller gives Griffith more credit/blame than he deserves. In 1915 Griffith simply wanted to direct a large scale film and to make money on it. He chose Thomas Dixon's play THE CLANSMAN not for its content but for its moneymaking potential (just like GONE WITH THE WIND 25 years later). The play had been a huge success and it was the 50th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. Dixon's name is rarely mentioned in discussions about BIRTH yet he is the source and came up with the film's title. Griffith actually toned down the racism of the original material (I don't recommend reading it if you're easily offended). Originally conceived as a live multimedia event in 2005, REBIRTH OF A NATION was reworked by Miller as a film in 2007. In addition to incorporating historical footage of the past and present there is an occasional voiceover to highlight certain scenes and images. There is also an original score composed by the filmmaker, who is something of a renaissance man (check out his DJ Spooky wikipedia entry), that features a variety of music/sounds in addition to a performance from the Kronos Quartet.
I would highly recommend this DVD to anyone interested in exploring race relations in America, the nature of propaganda in the media, and as a rare opportunity to see a portion of the first true blockbuster in American movie history. Afterwards rent the Kino version of BIRTH OF A NATION (avoid the many cheap public domain copies) just to see it in its entirety and then make your own evaluation"
An Intellectual Work of Art
E. Caldwell | Philadelphia, PA USA | 01/24/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Rebirth of a Nation" is a remix of the extremely influential and controversial 1915 film "Birth of a Nation" by D.W. Griffith. The film tells the revisionist history of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era in the South and the rise of the KKK, all of this from a white supremacist viewpoint. The images are literally racist propaganda, and was even used as a recruiting tool for the KKK.
Paul Miller, AKA DJ Spooky -- That Subliminal Kid, (who is also a Professor at the European Graduate School) created an amazing, intellectual, thought provoking remix out of D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation". His main premise seems to challenge the viewer to question the films affect on our world today, and specifically, on the power that mass media has in influencing which lens we see the world through.
There's no doubt about it, D.W. Griffith's images are compelling. This is at once disturbing and moving, and Paul Miller's point comes across quite well.
The visual effects are captivating, and entice you to follow the DJ as he deconstructs the images and the stories they tell. The music further aids him in is task. Towards the beginning of the story, the concentration is obviously on the storyline itself, and the music mostly follows the film. Yet as the film progresses, and the white men are shown as heroes and saviors in D.W. Griffith's version, Paul Miller's music "devolves" into a spooky, disjointed melody, exposing its sordid "morals". The film itself is overlain with narration about the storyline, Paul Miller's process, information about the film historically, and references to connections between the film and ongoing problems in our society today.
The only reason I did not give this film 5 stars was because I think there could have been many more special features available. There is an option for Paul Millers commentary to play along with the film. I definitely recommend watching it with the directors commentary on after your initial viewing.
This film is a must-see for anyone interested in race relations in America today, or for anyone interested in new ways of producing digitally manipulated and remixed film and video.