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The Birth of a Nation on Blu-ray and DVD in July

26 June 2013

Eureka Entertainment have announced that they will be releasing a new two-disc 1080p presentation (on the Blu-ray) of D. W. Griffith's great and controversial 3-hour silent epic, The Birth of a Nation – often hailed as the first feature-length masterpiece of the cinema. It is the film that invented such commonplace staples of cinema/TV technique: panoramic shots, night photography, panning shots, its own musical score, and was the breakthrough film of one of the greatest actress of the silent era – Lillian Gish. Special features will include short vintage introductions to the film by Griffith and Walter Huston; newly rediscovered intermission and title sequences; seven Civil War shorts by Griffith totalling over 100 minutes in length; and a lengthy booklet with writing about the film, rare archival imagery; and more.

One of the most artistically significant and controversial motion pictures ever made, D. W. Griffith's silent epic The Birth of a Nation was a massive commercial success at the time of its release, owing to its dynamic storytelling and its breakthrough developments in cinema language that have become common traits of practically every film that has since followed. However, the picture's legacy is one that continues to elicit outrage over its vulgar depictions of African-Americans and its deceptive historiography of the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century.

The Birth of a Nation begins depicting the amiable relationship between two families, Northern and Southern, and the way in which the impending Civil War intensifies the conflict of their worldviews. Following the end of the war and the assassination of President Lincoln, a lawless chaos courses throughout the Reconstruction South, and the Ku Klux Klan is formed to take on a rising black militia and impose a vengeful vigilante justice across their land and "birthright".

It's a film that's deeply divisive even to the senses of a single viewer: images of painterly beauty in composition and tonal quality often exhibit a contemptuous, inflammatory coarseness with regard to subject matter; just as frequently, long tracts evince an innocent, terrifically lyrical grandeur. Griffith would attempt to make amends for the moral schism of this schizophrenic epic in his next film, Intolerance, but The Birth of a Nation cannot – and should not – remain unseen, or undiscussed: it is a great, and terrible, masterpiece.

The Birth of a Nation will be released on UK Blu-ray and DVD on 22nd July 2013 by Eureka Entertainment as part of the Masters of Cinema series at the RRP of £17.99 for the DVD and £19.99 for the Blu-ray.

With a new 1080p presentation (on the Blu-ray) of the film from archival 35mm elements, in its original aspect ratio, the release will have the following special features:

  • Music by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra in 2.0 stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

  • Short archival introductions to the film by D. W. Griffith and Walter Huston

  • Newly rediscovered original intermission sequence and 1930 re-release title sequence

  • Seven Civil War shorts directed by Griffith: In the Border States (1910); The House with Closed Shutters (1910); The Fugitive (1910); His Trust (1910); His Trust Fulfilled (1910); Swords and Hearts (1911); and The Battle (1911)

  • A lengthy booklet with writing about the film, rare archival imagery, and more

  • More details to follow!

Here's an official Masters of Cinema clip from the film: