PCMS: Paul McEwan

April's Philadelphia Cinema and Media Seminar is this Friday:

Paul McEwan (Muhlenberg College)
"Courts, Critics, and Censors: New Research on The Birth of a Nation Controversy"
This talk is a presentation of recent work toward a book on the reception of D.W. Griffith’s 1915 racist epic The Birth of a Nation. The reception of this film is one of the few stories in film history that everyone seems to know, but archival research greatly complicates the picture.

Part of this talk will focus on Griffith’s battles with the censor boards in Ohio, where the film was banned until the 1950s, the only place where censorship of the film managed to stick. The ongoing legal battles give us a sense of what the censorship of the film meant to Griffith and Epoch productions beyond Griffith’s high-minded statements about free speech and “witch burners.” This was a battle fought in courtrooms around the country by a company with significant financial resources. Among the interesting documents unearthed are an annotated bibliography of the film, new letters from prominent citizens defending it, and hints of Griffith’s correspondence with the Klan in the 1920s.

The second part will focus on recent research on the available prints in the collection of the Library of Congress, many of which have not been thoroughly catalogued. Recent finds have included censored material, alternate takes of some scenes, and heavily revised intertitles that suggest that Griffith may have been adapting his film to the criticism it received.
Respondent: Jennifer Horne (Bryn Mawr College)

Friday, 13 April 2007

Temple University Center City Campus (TUCC)

Room 208, 6:30-8pm


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