“A Plea For The Art of the Motion Picture: We do not fear censorship, for we have no wish to offend with improprieties or obscenities, but we do demand, as a right, the liberty to show the dark side of wrong, that we may illuminate the bright side of virtue—the same liberty that is conceded to the art of the written word—that art to which we owe the Bible and the works of Shakespeare.”
Griffith addresses his audience with this lofty and hefty intertitle at the beginning of the film. With it, he attempts to contextualize and defend his efforts before the film’s action begins. He displays passion for the artistic potential of film here, and indeed he did more than any other director of the time to push the art form’s limits. Though not an unwarranted plea on behalf of the blossoming medium, especially coming from one of its most noteworthy practitioners, it was unnecessary—the best plea would have been simply a stunning and moving film that demonstratedthe art of the motion picture. By placing his film in the context of canonical written works that have held up over the passing of centuries, Griffith egotistically asserts his own film’s worthiness. The unreeling of the film shows that the “dark side of wrong” comprises opportunist Northern whites and black slaves who rebel against their servitude. The “bright side of virtue,” of course, consists of the Southern slave-owning gentry and the Ku Klux Klan.