Growing With Film

         I believe that studying cinema history is extremely important for students of all disciplines. How can one watch The Birth of a Nation, directed in 1915 by D. W. Griffith, and not be affected greatly? Movies touch the heart and soul of a person. There are numerous reasons why every student here at Murray State University and at every other school across the nation should study cinema history.

         To start at the beginning, growing up, we are not all magically endowed with the correct set of morals and values. And right and wrong do not exactly have definitions yet. With the help of parents and family, children are influenced by people and activity in everyday life. Media or news of some kind has been at the core of this education since recorded history. This has either come from newspapers, word of mouth, radio, movies, and now internet to name a few. Children learn by experiences and imitation to an extent. Therefore, it only makes sense that young ones learn by watching others, in movies perhaps. In the last hundred years films have played a key role in that development. According to our textbook, A History of Narrative Film, by David Cook, D.W. Griffith had a lot to do with the way we perceive cinema today and how it is structured. So it is established that media has an effect on children. If these children never had a movie to watch until they turned eighteen, would they be the same as everyone else? I think not. Film helps shape us into what we become.

         Plots, a character’s personality, and setting all help people learn more about each other and other places. From silent movies to special-effects packed movies of today, all movies portray human nature. Even if a movie is farfetched and melodramatic, the core idea of it can still be seen and learned from. Sociology, history, communication, music, nursing, and many more career paths all need to be able to interact with people and connect with them in some way. That is a huge part of being human! It is about connecting with people on a deeper level and conveying some important message. Movies never fail to do just that. The most trite and shallow movie to me could connect with another person and make him or her look at his or her life differently somehow.

         Catharsis alone is a good enough reason for anybody to study cinema history. Crying during a sad movie and laughing until one cries during a funny movie can release so much emotion. Pure enjoyment is a strong argument for the case of cinema history. Movies can give us an outlet better than anything else to express ourselves.

         The Birth of a Nation is a perfect example of why everyone should study cinema history. It goes to the heart of deep set racism in this country. Not only does it look at unjustified biases humans hold, but also does it at a time when it was raging worse that ever. It was a mere thirty years or so years after the Civil War that this movie was made, and I am sure it hit home with more than half the nation. If we can watch a film like The Birth of a Nation and gain some understanding or at least knowledge of another time and another way of thinking, the movie is a wild success. There is not a major or career path that could not benefit from learning more American history or cultural changes that have taken place in our country. Not only can we learn more about the U.S. history and culture, but we can become more knowledgeable about other countries as well. By learning to appreciate cinema history and what knowledge that can be gained from it, students can continue to use cinema as a tool and one hopes to their enjoyment for the rest of their lives.

Stephanie Cain

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