Why No One Is Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Feature Film

The Birth of a Nation movie poster, 1915, Library of Congress.

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Why No One Is Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Feature Film

by Godfrey Cheshire
Southern Cultures, Vol. 21, No. 4: Winter 2015

“What, finally, do we make of this holy monstrosity, this poisoned cornerstone of American cinema? And what do we do about it?”

By one way of reckoning, the week of February 8, 2015, can be called the 100th birthday of the medium with which many of us have spent our lives enthralled: the feature film. But the nation didn’t see any parades, fireworks, grand speeches, or other shows of celebration. That’s because the film that premiered at Clune’s Auditorium in Los Angeles on February 8, 1915, was D. W. Griffith’s The Clansman, soon to be retitled The Birth of a Nation—the most virulently racist major movie ever released in the United States.

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