By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Before I had left, Ubab instructed me not to make any major decisions for the next 30 days. I imagine that means things like getting married, filing for bankruptcy or euthanizing my aging Dalmatian. I assume, also, it means waiting to decide if I will return to that treacherous canyon and this strange healing.
The marquee at Fairfax’s Silent Movie Theater provided the first hint of conflict Monday night: “Tonight’s Show Cancelled.” The second, more obvious clue to trouble was the protesters. Fifty or so members of the International Action Center and the Progressive Labor Party had taken the sidewalk to revive Hollywood’s longest-running fracas: the 9-decade-old boycott of Birth of a Nation, D.W. Griffith’s 1915 ode to the Klu Klux Klan.
With its glorification of the KKK and vilification of Southern blacks, the film has long been used as a white-supremacist recruiting tool. But Monday’s fracas was fought along decidedly stranger lines. On one side were the protesters, most of whom had heard about the demonstration from KPFK and KGLA. (SMASH KKK MOVIE, read one protester’s hastily scrawled sign.) On the other, just as militant, were the cinephiles.
“Before Birth of a Nation, they never sold tickets, or scheduled screening times, or darkened the theater all the way,” said Zach Zoschke, a young silent-film buff angry about the cancellation. “It’s a really, really important movie.”
“I wouldn’t expect skinheads here, I’d expect intellectuals,” agreed David Daniel, who, wearing a sport coat and long hair, definitely looked more like the latter. But across the picket line, protester Dedon Kamathi disagreed — not about the historical significance of the movie, but how it should be seen.
“There should be professors to arm you ideologically about what you are going to see,” said Kamathi. “We’re not saying people shouldn’t see the movie. But there should be dialogue. People should see it on DVD.”
“You’ve got a lot of Jim Crow movies, like Barbershop 1or 2,” agreed Karim Mohammed, an herbologist whose shop was destroyed in the L.A. riots.
“Are you a protester?” I asked Mohammed’s friend, a black man in a wheelchair. He held a sign that clearly marked him as a protester, but refused to give his name.
“I’m a human being,” he replied, refusing to make eye contact.
“What group are you with?” I asked.
“I’m not with any group,” he said testily. “I’m a human being.”
At one point, some of the protesters and cinephiles seemed on the verge of a fistfight. Eventually, however, the crowd dispersed, and among those who stayed behind, anger gave way to nostalgia.
“They had to work a lot harder for laughs back then,” conceded protester Stuart Chandler, a Kerry-Edwards button pinned to his shirt. “There’s nothing like those old movies.”
“Got that right,” said Zoschke. “Fucking mall on the corner. Now thatis intolerance.”
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