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The domestic melodrama/epic originally premiered with the title The Clansman in February, 1915 in Los Angeles, California, but three months later was retitled with the present title at its world premiere in New York, to emphasize the birthing process of the US.
Thomas Dixon Jr.'s anti-black, 1905 bigoted melodramatic staged play, The Clansman, the second volume in a trilogy: Its release set up a major censorship battle over its vicious, extremist depiction of African Americans, although Griffith naively claimed that he wasn't racist at the time.
To answer his critics, director Griffith made a sequel, the magnificent four story epic about human intolerance titled Intolerance (1916).
But the film continued to be renounced as "the meanest vilification of the Negro race." Riots broke out in major cities (Boston, Philadelphia, among others), and it was denied release in many other places (Chicago, Ohio, Denver, Pittsburgh, St. Subsequent lawsuits and picketing tailed the film for years when it was re-released (in 1924, 1931, and 1938).In addition, at almost three hours in length, it was the longest film to date.However, it still provokes conflicting views about its message.Its pioneering technical work, often the work of Griffith's under-rated cameraman Billy Bitzer, includes many techniques that are now standard features of films, but first used in this film.Griffith brought all of his experience and techniques to this film from his earliest short films at Biograph, including the following: The film looks remarkably genuine and authentic, almost of documentary quality (like Brady's Civil War photographs), vividly reconstructing a momentous time period in history - and it was made only 50 years after the end of the Civil War.
The resulting controversy only helped to fuel the film's box-office appeal, and it became a major hit.