Movie review Birth of nation Essay
1. QUESTION (1 POINTS)  1BUS Why was BOAN not the first feature film? (Cook p62)
1. Answer: Griffith shot enough film to make Judith of Bethulia a feature-length epic. Additionally, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, American Film Institute and British Film institute define a feature film to have a running time of 40 minutes or longer, and by this logic the first feature film was the Australian film The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906)
2. QUESTION ( 1 POINTS)  1R What book was BOAN based on?
2. Answer: The Birth of a Nation was based primarily on the novel The Clansman by Thomas W. Dixon, supplemented by material from another book, The Leopard’s Spots, also by Dixon.
3. QUESTION (2 POINTS)  2HIS What is reconstruction?
3. Answer: “Reconstruction” is the period after the American Civil War in which the government was occupied with resolving many of the consequences of its aftermath, and occurred between 1863 and 1877.
4. QUESTION (1 POINTS)  1HIS What were carpetbaggers?
4. Answer: Carpetbaggers are Northerners who moved the South during the Reconstruction period.
The term was coined as a derogatory description of the white politicians from the North who would arrive South with their travel carpetbags, and were regarded as individuals prepared to exploit and plunder a defeated South.
5. QUESTION (1 POINTS)  1HIS What were scallywags?
5. Answer: Scallywags or scalawags are the Southern whites who joined the Republican Party in the ex-Confederate South.
6. QUESTION (1 POINTS)  1R What is a vigilante?
6. Answer: A vigilante is an individual who takes justice into his or her own hands when he deems the response of legal authorities to be insufficient, and by doing so ignores the due process of law. In the aftermath of the Civil War, vigilante secret societies such as the Ku Klux Klan arose.
7. QUESTION ( 1 POINTS)  1R What is a lynching?
7. Answer: Lynching is quite simply, the group vigilantism in the sense that it takes the form of extrajudicial punishment meted out by a mob. The term is derived from the name of Charles Lynch, who ordered extralegal punishment for Tory acts during the American Revolution. In the context of the Civil War and its aftermath, southern whites used lynching to terrorize and intimidate freed blacks who were voting and assuming political power and during the Reconstruction period, lynching was used against African Americans in an attempt to control them, bar them from the right to vote and force them into plantation work.
8. QUESTION (1 POINTS)  1HIS What did President Wilson say about the film?
8. Answer: After a special White House screening of The Birth of a Nation, President Woodrow Wilson was reputed to have remarked, “It is like writing history with lightning.”
9. QUESTION (10 POINTS)  10ST Describe as many conflicts as you can in BOAN. Use numbered points.
9. Answer: 1. The Ku Klux Klan vs. “crazed” Negro freedmen, the former attempt to disenfranchise the latter through politics.
2. The romantic aspirations of Ben Cameron & Elsie Stoneman and Phil Stoneman an Margaret Cameron become interrupted by the responsibilities and instability brought about by The Civil War.
3. Northern White Congressmen led by Austin Stonemen attempt vs. Post Secessionist Southerners. The former attempt to “punish” the latter through Reconstruction policy.
4. Former Union soldiers who resolve their differences with former Southern foes by uniting in the defense of their “Aryan birthright.”
5. The Camerons feel disenfranchised by the policies of Reconstruction constructed by the North and resist by participating in the Ku Klux Klan.
10. QUESTION (3 POINTS)  3ART When our author describes shot distance what does he mean –describe an effective example. Clue – long shot, mediem shot, etc. How are they used to good effect in BOAN?
10. Answer: With regards to shot distance, the author is referring to the proximity between the camera and the subject. For example, extreme long shots of battlefields give sense of the scale of conflict taking place while close shots give a visceral sense of the violence itself. As such, shot distance is used in BOAN to effect both the vivid and epic dimensions of combat.
11. QUESTION ( 3 POINTS)  3ART When our author describes shot length what does he mean? Describe 2 effective examples. Clue: use one example each of long takes and fast edits.
11. Answer: With regards to shot length, the author is referring to the duration of time given to various shots. For example, in the Battle of Petersburg, a sequence of cuts between Confederate soldiers charging from one side of the screen and Union soldiers charging from another helps establish the proximity of these events. By cutting immediately between them, it becomes clear that the events are occurring not just in the same physical space, but in the same temporal space as well and these cuts are resolved by a final head-on collision in the combat field. In the burning of Atlanta sequence, BOAN makes use of a diagonal split screen where troops march in the lower half of the screen and buildings are blazing in the upper half, establishing a causal relationship between the events taking place in both halves of the screen.
12. QUESTION ( 3 POINTS)  3ART What is a long take and how does it differ from other editing?
12. Answer: A long take is basically a prolonged shot which allows the audience to take in the scene presented to them, and helps establish it firmly within the mind.
13. QUESTION ( 2 POINTS)  2ART Where does Griffith use a shot reverse shot? CLUE it’s in the hospital
14. QUESTION ( 1 POINTS)  1ART What is an eyeline match?
14. Answer: An eyeline match is an editing convention which relies on continuity logic. It begins with a character looking at something off-screen and is followed by a cut to what he is looking at.
15. QUESTION ( 2 POINTS)  2ART Describe 2 different examples of vignette effects.
15. Answer: A vignette is either a scene within a scene, such as when Margaret thinks upon her dead brother Wade, who appears as a separate medium close up shot in a corner balloon.
16. QUESTION ( 2 POINTS)  2ART Describe an example of split screen AND the intended effect.
16. Answer: A split screen effect is when the screen is divided visibly into two simultaneous running images, usually but not always suggested to be taking place simultaneously. In The Birth of a Nation, this is used to juxtapose the sacking of Atlanta with the marching of troops.
17. QUESTION ( 1 POINTS)  1ART Describe an example of panorama. CLUE not a widscreen effect or a pan.
17. Answer: A panorama is mode of cinematography which adjusts the focus such as to give greater attention to the background and shadow details.
18. QUESTION ( 1 POINTS)  1ART How did Griffith imitate wide screen?
18. Answer: By using various panning effects in Birth of a Nation, Griffith emulated many of the qualities of wide screen before the technology was available.
19. QUESTION (1 POINTS)  1ART Describe the State House double exposure
19. Answer: At the end of The Birth of a Nation, audiences are presented with a double exposure of the benevolent Christ-like figure emerging from the background following an image in which angelic figures are dissolved from the images of war.
20. QUESTION ( 2 POINTS)  2ART Describe that shot of the family and Sherman as if you describing it to a friend interested in cinema.
20. Answer: A title card reads, “While the women and children weep, a great conqueror marches to the sea,” and is followed by a black screen. This is followed by a combination of a fade-in and an opening iris in which we get a close-up shot of an anguished mother as she comforts her children as they huddle by the charred remnants of their home. The view slowly pans from left to right to reveal that they are on the side of a forested hilltop, down which is Sherman’s army marching through a wide expanse of land as they leave a violent path through Georgia. The iris opens up on their march to the sea – the valley is in flames and strewn with corpses and then cuts back and forth between the two contrasting images.
21. QUESTION ( 2 POINTS)  2ART What are fade ins and fade outs and how are they used in BOAN?
21. Answer: A fade in is when a scene is introduced by gradually brightening it into the frame from black while a fade out is its opposite, gradually darkening the scene until it is gone. A fade in is employed in tandem with the iris open in the scene in which Sherman’s army invades Georgia. A fade out is used at the conclusion of the film following the scenes in which war is juxtaposed with Christ, fading from the vision of Ben and Elsie in the sea and out into the final caption card, “”Liberty and union, one and inseparable, now and forever!”
22. QUESTION ( 2 POINTS)  2ART What does iris open iris close do?
22. Answer: An iris is an editing technique which isolates portions of the frame in order to call attention to it. In the case of an iris open, it allows viewers to be introduced to a scene with an entry point of significance, namely the portion of the scene which the iris is focused on. In the case of an iris close, it concludes a scene by focusing its final moment on a key portion of the frame.
23. QUESTION ( 3 POINTS)  3ART Describe 3 different uses of iris effects in BOAN.
23. Answer: An iris is used to depict the devastation Sherman’s army has wreaked upon the homes of families. It is also used to depict the thoughts of Elsie Stoneman as she visualizes her dead brother internally. Also, an iris is used to highlight Elsie when she stares past a cage holding a white dove, shortly before she weeps at her bed.
24. QUESTION ( 3 POINTS)  3ART What are 3 uses for tinting?
These are listed in the lecture.
24. Answer: Tinting can be used to significantly imbue mood to a scene, such as when images of combat are given a blood red tint to signify the rage of war.
25. QUESTION ( 5 POINTS)  5DIR Describe an example of parallel editing in BOAN or in an earlier Griffith film. Your answer will be a paragraph rather than a sentence. You can find this in the lectures and in the book.
26. QUESTION ( 5 POINTS)  5DIR Describe mise-en-scene style of shooting. What experience for the audience does it provide? CLUE In the hospital. As I’ve mentioned, this is a difficult term but it is important to understand how this style of shooting differs from the montage style. Look these terms up and try your best guess.
26. Answer: Mise en scene essentially attempts to invest as much verisimilitude into the scene as possible not just in terms of production aspects but in terms of articulating the ‘reality’ of the scene concerned in the film. This provides the audience not just with a palpable understanding of what the director is trying to depict, but also attempts to invest as much narrative detail as possible in the implied relationship between character’s stances or how background objects can articulate history and imply other details.
27. QUESTION ( 4 POINTS)  4DIR What did the lecture highlight in the Fords theater scene? What would a modern director do? This is described in the lecture and this answer will assist you in the iris question.
28. QUESTION ( 1 POINTS)  1ART What is special about the music?
28. Answer: The music of The Birth of a Nation was the first time original music was created for the purposes of a film, rather than being previously composed work licensed for it.
29. QUESTION ( 6 POINTS)  6DIR Describe 3 examples of how Griffith focuses our attention.
EXAMPLE A man walks into a bank [cut to a close-up of a gun tucked in his belt]
Your answers might include technical devices or interesting editing etc.
29. Answer: Griffith utilizes various techniques to focus our attention. The most simple form is in the close up, which eliminates irrelevant details by focusing our attention entirely on the most relevant component of a scene, such as the emotions expressed by an actor’s face. He also utilizes irises which isolate portions of the screen to call attention to details of significance. Third, cutting also helps by interrupting scenes with details of pertinence to the action taking place in the scene that has been cut in the first place.
30. QUESTION ( 6 POINTS)  6DIR Describe 3 examples of how Griffith engages our thoughts. The purpose here is to find elements in the film which communicate ideas or messages.
EXAMPLE the close up of the puppy and the kitten fighting and the inter-title “hostilities” this portends that the happy frivolous times may become serious.
31. QUESTION ( 6 POINTS)  6DIR Describe 3 examples of directing choices in BOAN.
EXAMPLE: In Once Upon a Time in the West the director increases tension by only showing actors eyes or close ups of their gun hands twitching during the climactic shoot-out. The director also increases tension by playing music, which builds to the moment of the draw.
31. Answer: In
32. QUESTION ( 6 POINTS)  6DIR Describe 3 examples of how Griffith strives to connect to our emotions.
33. QUESTION ( 2 POINTS)  2ACT Describe an example where inner thoughts seem to motivate gestures. Describe what you think the thoughts were that created the gesture.
34. QUESTION (1 POINTS)  1R What group made an impact on the distribution of BOAN?
34. Answer: The Birth of a Nation had an unprecedented length thirteen reels. Because of this many of the existing exchanges passed on distribution and Griffith was forced to form his own company to handle distribution.
35. QUESTION ( 5 POINTS)  5R Which states banned BOAN?
35. Answer: The states of Massachusetts, Illinois, Kansas, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio and Wisconsin all refused licenses for the exhibition of The Birth fo a Nation.
36. QUESTION ( 1 POINTS)  1R What publicity stunt was used to promote the film?
36. Answer: The screening of The Birth of a Nation for President Woodrow Wilson is largely regarded as a publicity stunt, and many contend as to whether he really endorsed the film or not. Regardless, Thomas Dixon went so far as to declare the film to be “federally endorsed.”
37. QUESTION (1 POINTS)  1R What group was recreated and reinspired by BOAN?
37. Answer: Following the release of The Birth of a Nation, a second iteration of the Ku Klux Klan was formed, which grew rapidly in the face of labor tensions and increasing numbers of immigrants.
38. QUESTION (1 POINTS)  1R What parts were censored or cut? (worth 1 point)
38. Answer: Among the scenes cut from The Birth of a Nation were a love scene between a Reconstructionist Senator and his mulatto mistress, and a fight scene.
39. QUESTION (10 POINTS)  10R Comments in Movies that Shook the World described portrayals of Blacks as surrealistic. Provide examples from BOAN of why the speaker said this and also your observations about other portrayals in BOAN, which were designed to make a point, or which reinforced insulting stereotypes of Blacks.
EXAMPLE: in a recent television ad for a security system the burglar was portrayed in dark clothing with a hood. He was also young, male and ugly. The ad reinforces the idea that burglars are young, male, ugly and wear clothing that covers them up.
NOW create similar examples from BOAN.
39. Answer: The Birth of a Nation depicts black peoples as lecherous and crazed b savagery. Not only do they seem to be driven entirely by lascivious intent towards white women, but they are depicted as utterly lacking in decorum in the legislature: constantly drinking alcohol and propping their bare feet onto table surfaces. Such caricaturization is brought into sharper relief by the fact that all the black characters are portrayed by white actors in blackface, lending them a surreal serio-comical demeanor.
40. QUESTION (10 POINTS)  10HIS Describe examples of why people say BOAN invented cinema, as we know it. You will need information from the textbook. Especially focus on the business changes and artistic elements. Your answers will be in the form of bullet points
40. Answer: Birth of a Nation “invented cinema, as we know it” by:
Presenting an explicitly political, albeit hatefully racist, narrative which was unprecedented in the largely constrained narratives of the single reel films that preceded it, thereby furthering the notion of cinema as a medium that could express ideas and messages, elevating it to the level of art.
Utilizing various techniques of editing and cinematography that are taken for granted today. While many of those techniques were not ‘the first ever,’ they had not been utilized previously to the effect that they were in The Birth of a Nation.
Popularizing the aforementioned techniques, which is arguably more important than merely utilizing them. The Birth of a Nation essentially gave rise to the modern ‘language’ of film and cinematic storytelling that is still used today.
Attaining massive commercial success such that it moved the emerging film industry from a mere hobbyist affair into a national ritual of entertainment and spectacle. In short, The Birth of a Nation made cinema a mainstream and mass market industry that produced entertainment consumed by the common person.
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