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'Birth of a Nation' anniversary has a heck of a bookend

'Birth of a Nation' anniversary has a heck of a bookend

In the history of American cinema, D.W. Griffith's 1915 landmark "The Birth of a Nation" is the gift that keeps on generating misgivings. Based on Thomas Dixon Jr.'s 1905 novel "The Clansman," and the subsequent stage version, Griffith's 12-reel Civil War epic, slightly more than three hours in length, remains a uniquely vexing achievement. It is often painful to watch, even when its techniques and ambitions command attention, even now. The film is as accomplished and sophisticated visually as it is notorious and vicious thematically. It's also readily available on YouTube and other sites. "The Birth of a Nation" defends white Southern...

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