D.W. Griffith is the inventor of the modern intercut editing technique used in film. In fact, most of the narrative devices used today(the way we see film narrative) were in part his creation. He directed a number of pieces, but his two most famous are "The Birth of a Nation" which is about the chaos in the South after the Civil War. The film was criticized, even during its own time, for being a racist film. These claims have merit, but in response to the criticism Griffith directed his next great film "Intolerance: Love's Struggle Through the Ages." In "Intolerance" Griffith masterfully tells four historical tales of human intolerance for the "other." The examples range in era from Babylon to the modern day including the crucifixion of Christ and St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. It is a masterful story which asks us all to love and embrace one another.
Needless to say recent protests prevented the screening of "The Birth of a Nation" at our local Silent Movie Theatre. It is a shame that we live in a world where we can watch "Battleship Potemkin" or "Alexander Nevski" both of which are pro-Soviet propaganda (oh, and both are brilliant by the way) but can't watch "The Birth of a Nation" because it advances a racist world view. How are we ever going to deal with the problem of racism if we don't talk about the elephant in the room. Is racism wrong? Of course, we can through reason determine that any behavior which leads to the oppression of a group of people based merely on skin color is wrong. It is not the story which makes Birth a great film, it is the technique not the narrative. With "Intolerance" it is both, so hopefully the theatre will show this wonderful film in the place of the other.
BTW, one of the neatest things about seeing a film in the Silent Movie Theatre is that you often get to see the films with their original tinting. Back in the silent era filmmakers often tinted different scenes to convey a mood.