in about 100 words or less
An incredible box office success, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915) is perhaps the most infamous and influential movie of all time. Studied, debated, lauded, and soundly denounced, it was controversial from its premier, and was also the center of countless debates on censorship. The August 1915 edition of The Moving Picture World (p.1344) reported that W. J. Hindley, the pastor of the Central Congregational Church of Winnipeg, and scout for the Provincial Motion Picture Censorship board of Manitoba, was tasked with determining the suitability of Birth of a Nation for Western Canadian audiences. After viewing the film at the Clemmer Theater in Spokane Washington, the pastor declared that “he had seen no greater picture”. He also noted that one of the most objectionable scenes, introduced as: “The Claws of the Beast” had been eliminated, as it portrayed “a negro who is pursuing a white girl”. Hindley added that he “will suggest that some of the close-up views of the degenerate negro be eliminated and a number of the subheads should be done away with”. Somewhat apologetically, he also noted that “It is unfortunate, however, that the sunny and prophetic side of the negro’s nature is not emphasized a little more to give better balance to the picture”. Incredibly, his only real reservation was that the production was “so pre-eminently American in its historic appeal”, that it may not have the same drawing power with Canadian audiences (Klaus Ming May 2016).