DJ Spooky remixes 'The Birth of a Nation' tonight

Klan in Birth of a Nation.jpg
I found out something disturbing earlier this year, while combing through hundreds of local newspapers from 1915-1916 to research the history of the Varsity Theater--tonight's venue for DJ Spooky's "remix" of D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (which also opened in 1915). Turns out Griffith's racist totem was hugely popular in Minneapolis, as it was across the U.S., enjoying a long downtown run with prominent advertisements in daily papers. A founding work of cinema, The Birth of a Nation was also an influential piece of white supremacist propaganda, based on the book The Clansman by Thomas F. Dixon, Jr., which heroized the Ku Klux Klan for protecting white women from black men. The ranks of the KKK swelled as a result of the film's success, as did the popularity of "movies" (then still taking quotes). By 1923, the Pioneer Press was reporting the presence of a KKK unit in St. Paul, and a University of Minnesota's homecoming parade had included a KKK float (read more here). Tonight's belated "response" of sorts features the great illbient turntablist Spooky orchestrating a live, three-screen, multimedia re-imagining of Griffith's silent "classic." By now filmmaker's primary claim on history is seen mainly by film students (MN Film Arts' Search and Rescue project recently unearthed a print at the U of M) and others curious about the work's anti-inspiration for Spike Lee, so this event (featuring new imagery and music) might actually be a good way to see the picture for the first time. Showtime at 7:30 p.m. at the Varsity Theater in Dinkytown, with an after-party at the same club featuring Spooky, DJ Nikoless, and Dessa's duo with Jessy Greene, Urban Ivy. See for a complete Sound Unseen festival roundup, and the official festival site for a full schedule.

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