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D.W. Griffith Award To Receive New Moniker

By Jeff Usry
Special To Blackflix.com

     HOLLYWOOD -- The Directors Guild of America recently announced that it will rename its highest honor --- the D.W. Griffith Award.
     The award is named after silent-era director D.W. Griffith, who is considered the father of film with more than 450 films to his credit, including the controversial Civil War epic Birth of a Nation.
     The 1915 film depicted blacks as savage animals while glorifying and giving a re-birth to the Ku Klux Klan. It is those racial overtones which caused the guild to consider renaming its prestigious award.
     "As we approach a new millennium," DGA President Jack Shea told the Associated Press, "the time is right to create a new ultimate honor for film directors that better reflects the sensibilities of our society at this time in our national history."
     Despite causing a wave of rioting in the streets during its initial release, Birth Of a Nation is regarded by many film critics and historians as the silent era's greatest film.
     Regardless, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said changing the name of the award was the right thing to do. The NAACP was the first organization to protest the film in 1915. Mfume added that Griffith's name should never have been given to the award in the first place.
     Legendary directors Woody Allen, Orson Welles, Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick, John Huston, Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Capra, John Ford and Cecil B. De Mille have been recipients of the coveted round crystal trophy -- but never a black director.
     "There is no question that D.W. Griffith was a brilliant pioneer filmmaker whose innovations as a visionary film artist led the way for generations of directors," Shea told the Associated Press. "However, it is also true that he helped foster intolerable racial stereotypes."