Synopsis by Nathan Southern
Two of the most renowned film historian-archivists, Kevin Brownlow (Abel Gance's Napoleon) and David Gill, team up for this epic three-part documentary on the rise and fall of David Wark "D.W." Griffith, still widely regarded by many as the most brilliant and intuitive filmmaker in modern history. Brownlow and Gill draw on meticulously-chosen film clips to illustrate how Griffith virtually reinvented filmmaking from 1908-1916, during his tenure at the Biograph film studios, courtesy of revolutionary advancements in cinematographic and acting techniques that enabled him to single-handedly define film grammar. Gill and Brownlow reveal how this culminated in Griffith's technically marvelous yet morally indefensible epic The Birth of a Nation (1915), an ironic development given Hollywood's complete abandonment of Griffith with the advent of sound. Revealing interviews with heavyweights including Lillian Gish, Karl Brown, Blanche Sweet, cinematographer Stanley Cortez and others supplement the material.