chapter  15
14 Pages

Faux real? C.S.A. The Confederate States of America as the response to The Birth of a Nation

ByNovotny Lawrence

In Contemporary American Independent Film: from the margins to the mainstream, Chris Holmlund explains that ‘historically independent films have offered a “safe haven” for those ignored or neglected by the major studios, among them ethnic, racial, sexual, and political “minorities”’ (2005: 13). In the case of African Americans, whose secondclass citizenship was on full display in early films such as A Nigger in the Woodpile (1904), For Massa’s Sake (1911) and The Birth of a Nation (1915), the indie sector has functioned as a platform to counter cinema’s skewed portrayals of blacks and black life. Race films produced in the teens and 1920s, in addition to motion pictures such as Nothing but a Man (1964) and Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971) did much to challenge Hollywood’s stereotyped African-American representations – the loyal tom, buffoonish coon, tragic mulatto, the overbearing mammy and the savage buck (Bogle 2008: 10) – depicting three-dimensional characters rather than one-dimensional caricatures.