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Goodness Comes in Black and White

Author: boblipton from New York City
25 February 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A troop of ill-equipped Zulu warriors -- played by White men in blackface -- dash about the countryside, pausing occasionally to cheer themselves on. Finally, they attack a Conestoga wagon, kill the man and drag off the woman. However, when the little girl offers the threatening warrior her doll, he decides to protect her and her mother.

There's a lot that problematic for the modern viewer in this movie, starting with the blackface. To explain without excusing, the only reason Griffith was involved in the movies at all was because he couldn't get a job on stage. The first people he would give any jobs to were buddies similarly fitted -- assuming his bosses didn't have any thoughts on the subject.

What is clear is the anti-racist message of this movie: there are bad Black people. There are also good ones. It's just like they are individuals!

On a technical issue, this is a very early movie for Griffith to have shot outdoors; he was clearly more comfortable within the familiar confines of the stage and studio. The editing of the opening sequence, with cuts every time the warriors or wagon round a corner and blindingly fast for the era. They definitely increase the tension from the then-standard rate of showing them entering on one side of the screen and continuing through to the other. Here, they start with the action in the center!

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Subjective Camera

Author: Single-Black-Male from London, England
31 December 2003

It is because of D.W. Griffith that we have such a thing as subjective camera. This enables us to see things from the protagonists (or antagonists) point of view in order to get beneath the story. He is kind of like the Chaucer of cinematic language.

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