A Glance at Our Nation’s Cultural Assimilation through Film

        I am discussing two American films that have been heavy in exemplifying the cultural bias through this country's years, and the values of each era. The Birth of a Nation, directed by D. W Griffith in 1915, and Crash, directed by Paul Haggis in 2005, are the two films. I chose these two movies because of the distinct ideas the film makers sought to promote.

        The Birth of a Nation was based on the American Civil War that took place during 1861-1865. Although the film was not made until 1915, almost fifty years later, audiences everywhere still felt the strong racial tension between white southerners and African Americans. The film was called The Birth of a Nation, but it was originally titled The Clansman, since the birth of the infamous Klu Klux Klan was portrayed in its storyline. The story is of two families, one a resident in the prejudiced South, and the other in the liberating North. The young men of the family go to war for their respective states and views and end up meeting each other on the battlefield. The terrible loss of the South is exaggerated, as well as the boorish behaviors of the newly freed slaves. The film demonstrates the fervent hate bred among people in the era. In the early years of the 1900's, intolerance and injustice were as solid as, if not even more intolerable than years before the Civil War and the fall of the southern economy and way of life. The southern states had lost so much culture due to the war. The plantation age was over, and many cities lay in ruin. Much of this anger and resentment was illustrated in the film as well as in the many segregation laws and random acts of violence towards Africans in the day of the film. The film had irrevocably caused the revival of the KKK. The controversy was so strong that many states refused to show it. The director, D.W. Griffith, was extremely hurt by many Americans' vile reaction to something he had worked so very hard to present. However, his subconscious discrimination caused many distorted facts about the Reconstruction of the South. Despite the widespread riots and intense dislike of the film, there were many more with the exact same beliefs and values toward ethnic people that Griffith portrayed in the film; they just lacked the resources to make these ideas and actions rampantly known.

        Crash is a modern film that focuses on the complexities of racial conflict in America today. In a post-9/11 setting the film challenges audiences to question their own prejudices. The film centers on many intersecting lives of many ethnic and urban lifestyles, revealing the truth of discrimination still so rampant in our culture. Crash confronts the paradox in our American value system of personal freedom and equal opportunity for every man. The movie follows the lives of many people and outlines their individual preconceptions or lack thereof. Audiences are feeling and seeing first-hand the multifaceted sides of culture, politics and society today. It has been nominated for several Oscars, including best picture, and has been met with overall great reviews. The different perception of the film represents the movement and advancement of this country's racial assimilation. Much of America today craves a completely integrated and fair society, one that offers just opportunities for its numerous faces of color, race, religion, and ethnic backgrounds. Crash offers the opportunity to those who may have any silent bigotry towards other men to find it, and recognize the pain it causes, and destroy it.

        The two films are alike in that they exhibit the priorities of the time and the prejudices faced by certain American people. The most striking difference is not the perception of the films or the questionable honesty of one, but the purpose of the films. The Birth of a Nation was made by a man for the sheer purpose of offering Americans an epic, a movie history of themselves. Griffith's unawareness of his injustices made the film have a negative side effect. Crash strove to provoke awareness in Americans, showing the country that prejudice and paradox in our culture still runs wild and brilliant. Both of these films will provide the future with a knowledgeable peek into our ever shifting culture and values. These controversial and impacting films will offer a possibility for future film makers to revolutionize the country's current cultural situations and attitudes so that we shall end up with the much desired integration of people who harmonize together as one nation under God.

Cook, David A., A History of Narrative Film. 4th Ed. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2004.

“Movies/Crash.” 2006. 2 Mar. 2006 http: .

Marilyn Kennon

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