Birth of a Nation (Silent)

Griffith's historic Civil War epic stands as the greatest achievement of the silent screen.
30K ratings
Price: $8.50
List Price: $10.98
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Format:  DVD-R
item number:  FGYE

DVD Features:

  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Run Time: 3 hours, 12 minutes
  • Video: Black & White
  • Encoding: Region 0 (Worldwide)
  • Released: April 26, 2005
  • Originally Released: 1915
  • Label: Alpha Video
  • Packaging: Keep Case
  • Aspect Ratio: Full Frame - 1.33

Performers, Cast and Crew:

Performer: , , , , , , , &
Directed by
Edited by
Music by &
Screenwriting by &
Cinematography by
Produced by

Entertainment Reviews:


Total Count: 41


User Ratings: 4,754
Rating: 4/4 -- As a work of art, it is unforgettable; as a social document, it is unforgivable. Quality of Movie: 4 stars. Content of Movie: 1 star. Full Review
Creative Loafing
Jun 17, 2018
Griffith's later films are unquestionably superior. But here, in a very real sense, is where the movies began, both as an art and as a business. Full Review
Chicago Reader
Feb 6, 2008
The biggest challenge the film provided for its audiences is perhaps to decide when 'ground-breaking, dedicated, serious cinematic art' must be reviled as politically reprehensible. Full Review
Time Out
Feb 9, 2006
...It's gripping drama...
Dec 1, 2003
The civil war battle pictures, taken in panorama, represent enormous effort and achieve a striking degree of success. Full Review
New York Times
Mar 25, 2006
Rating: 3/5 -- The Birth of a Nation has become a staple of any film studies course, for its excellent performances, thrilling action sequences and epic landscapes. However it's subject matter is much more controversial now. Full Review
Empire Magazine
Aug 19, 2013
The quasi-Victorian Griffith was in so many respects way ahead of his time even if his philosophy and mind-set could often be said to be behind it. Full Review
Aug 19, 2013

Description by

After watching D. W. Griffith's epic in 1915, President Woodrow Wilson declared, "It is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true." Meanwhile, the NAACP organized protests with regard to its portrayal of African-Americans. Today, this milestone of early cinema retains the power to move us emotionally, intellectually and politically.

Griffith has been called the "Father of Film." A failed actor and playwright, Griffith came to the Edison Studios in 1907. From 1908 to 1914, he directed 500 films. Constantly experimenting with, and innovating, film technique, his work culminated with the masterpiece The Birth Of A Nation, the first American full-length motion picture.

Based on stories by Thomas Dixon, this Civil War epic involves the struggle of two families: the Camerons from the South and the Stonemans from the North. Like Mathew Brady photographs brought to life, the film contains splendid, authentic recreations of major moments from the war - the assassination of Lincoln, the surrender of Lee at Appomattox, Sherman's march to the sea and heart-wrenching battle scenes. It is the film's second half, which deals with Reconstruction and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, that has created the greatest debate. Griffith would make Intolerance a year and a half later as a response to the controversy his film caused.

Product Description:

This landmark film from silent director D.W. Griffith was the first movie blockbuster. However, it also reveals a horribly racist version of American history. The first part of the film chronicles the Civil War as experienced through the eyes of two families; the Stonemans from the North, and the Camerons of the South. Lifelong friends, they become divided by the Mason-Dixon line, with tragic results. Large-scale battle sequences and meticulous historical details culminate with a staged re-creation of Lincoln's assassination. The second half of the film chronicles the Reconstruction, as Congressman Austin Stoneman (Ralph Lewis) puts evil Silas Lynch (George Siegmann) in charge of the liberated slaves at the Cameron hometown of Piedmont. Armed with the right to vote, the freed slaves cause all sorts of trouble until Ben Cameron (Henry B. Walthall) founds the Ku Klux Klan and restores order and "decency" to the troubled land. While THE BIRTH OF A NATION was a major step forward in the history of filmmaking, it must be noted that the film supports a racist worldview. But there is no denying that it remains a groundbreaking achievement, setting a high watermark for film as an art form.


This product is made-on-demand by the manufacturer using DVD-R recordable media. Almost all DVD players can play DVD-Rs (except for some older models made before 2000) - please consult your owner's manual for formats compatible with your player. These DVD-Rs may not play on all computers or DVD player/recorders. To address this, the manufacturer recommends viewing this product on a DVD player that does not have recording capability.

Movie Lovers' Ratings & Reviews:

Customer Rating:
Based on 30754 ratings.
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Surprising for a public domain release! Movie Lover: from Kitchener, ON CA -- April, 8, 2010

This is the first film I've purchased from Alpha and I'm pleasantly surprised.

I'll pass on reviewing the content of the film because its all been done before.

For the most part pd dvds are released with one thing in mind...put as little time/money/effort into a release and get profit by keeping the price in the bargain bin.

Not this dvd! The film comes on a dual layer dvd with the movie clocking in at about 5.4ish GB by itself. With a running time of over 3 hours the extra space of the disc help greatly with the image quality. By no means is this a perfect/restored has its flaws but at this price point you can't complain.

Oh and the cover art is a cut above most pd dvds.

Good job Alpha!

The Lowdown:

Film: 4/5
Video: 4/5 (Note that it is interlaced)
Sound: 3/5 (Does the job)
Extras: 2.5/5 (Some hilariously bad trailers)
Overall: 13.5/20

An Astounding, Clean Print Movie Lover: from New York, NY US -- May, 30, 2008

Yes, there is still a lot of controversy around this film nearly 100 years after it premiered. But on a cinematic level, this was the first real "movie". It is surprisingly effective and for a silent movie the acting is amazingly subdued. Techniques devised by Griffith are still in use today. The long shots here are sweeping and every close-up has a meaning. Politics right or wrong, this film is about people first. A word about this DVD: I state without reservation that this is absolutely the best print of Birth of a Nation that I have ever seen. Clearly pieced together from several available prints, some of it is crystal clear; all of it is easy to watch and in the correct speed. For $5, own a piece of cinema - and American - history. Show this film to the kids and then use it to launch a discussion on some very dark times in our nation's past.

Stunned Movie Lover: from Brick, NJ -- July, 25, 2005

Having given this film a mediocre rating, I should tell you that there is nothing mediocre about it.

First, the movie-making firsts in this movie are astounding. Search the web and you'll doubtless find lists from around the world, including major universities, declaring the many innovative techniques that were used in this film. The one item that I didn't find listed was that this movie had an ensemble cast, long before that genre became common. Each member rises to the forefront of the film's action when called upon, then fades into the background as another story line is given attention. And this version of the film is in incredibly good shape for a 90-year old film.

But sadly, this movie is blatantly racist. The intertitles try to disclaim the racism, but those claims are simply unbelievable. Historically, it is fact that this movie spurred renewed interest in the Ku Klux Klan at a time when it was destined for obscurity. The hate and suffering fostered by this movie cannot be denied or dismissed; the Klan still uses this film as a recruiting tool.

D. W. Griffith, like Woodrow Wilson, had the misfortune of seeing the evils of reconstruction in the post-war South without first seeing the greater evils of slavery. It gave them both a distorted view of race relations in America (Wilson is credited with renewing segregation in the executive branch after every president since Lincoln had tried to reverse it). And thanks in part to this movie, those distorted views survive among us to this day. But avoiding this movie, or demanding that no one else ever see it, will not make anything better. It is a landmark film in movie-making history and should be treated as such; however, while pointing out its incredible accomplishments, the racism it portrays should be exposed for what it is. And don't be surprised if it makes you feel angry.

As for me, I was stunned. Completely. On both counts.

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Product Info

  • Sales Rank: 955
  • UPC: 089218471697
  • Shipping Weight: 0.25/lbs (approx)
  • International Shipping: 1 item

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