'Birth of a Nation' Screening Canceled

The owner of a silent movie theater canceled a screening of the controversial 1915 D.W. Griffith film, "The Birth of a Nation," (search) after receiving threats and complaints.

Charlie Lustman, owner of the Silent Movie Theatre (search), said he worried that customers and 92-year-old organist Bob Mitchell, who provides musical accompaniment for the theater's films, would have to cross picket lines to see Monday's scheduled show.

"The Birth of a Nation" is a movie about the Civil War that portrays blacks as would-be rapists and stereotyped buffoons.

Although considered a technical masterpiece and the forerunner of modern filmmaking, it has also been denounced for its blatantly racist message.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (search), which had protested the planned showing, said the movie "poisoned racial relationships in America for nearly a century." The group called the cancellation a victory for it and other community organizations.

Lustman said he had planned to focus on the film's role pioneering cinematography techniques and would have put its message in context by including a debate and a presentation by a film scholar either before or after the show.