Birth of a Movement

The story of William Monroe Trotter, editor of a Boston black newspaper who helped launch a nationwide movement in 1915 to ban Hollywood’s first blockbuster movie, The Birth of a Nation.

Film Signature Image
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
February 6, 2017
60 minutes
  • Nominated laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2017 News and Documentary Emmy Awards-Outstanding Historical Documentary
  • Producer/Director

    Susan Gray

    Susan Gray is the director of Broadcast Development at Northern Light Productions, where she has directed and produced numerous documentary features. An impassioned advocate for social justice, she strives to bring awareness to and spark conversations about serious issues plaguing our society. Her films include: Public Enemy, a documentary Show more profiling four former members of the Black Panthers Party, that was broadcast on Showtime, throughout Europe, and shown in major film festivals in competition around the world; and Across the River with Hedrick Smith, a PBS documentary exploring positive programs in Washington D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood. While producing in Europe, she was awarded the Prix Europa, Europe’s highest documentary prize, for a PBS documentary she directed and wrote called Citizen Berlusconi about Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s then prime minister. Her films have appeared on PBS, the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, Arte, Showtime, in theaters, and television throughout the world. She co-produced Beyond the Wall, a story following an ex-convict’s journey through re-entry, and Circus Without Borders, which follows a Guinean and an Inuit circus troupe struggling to overcome the legacy of colonialism in their countries, and Confessions of the Boston Strangler. Susan has an MA in journalism from Columbia University, with a concentration in documentary film, and an MA from the Johns Hopkins School for International Studies with a concentration in Social Change and Development. Show less


    Bestor Cram

    Bestor Cram began his career as an independent filmmaker in the early 1970s, following a tour of duty in Vietnam. He urgently needed to find a way to communicate to the hearts and minds of those who had already dismissed an opportunity for dialogue. It was a time of polarizing words sparked by horrific acts of violence that needed to be understood in the context Show more of misleading lies, cover-ups, and nasty political discourse. It was a pivotal era of lost innocence, forever changing the way our nation saw itself — and how a young veteran saw himself. In 1982, he founded Northern Light Productions, where today he serves as the Creative Director. Cram has built Northern Light into one of the premiere documentary production companies in New England, dedicating himself to documentary film and museum work that strives to achieve a greater truth. Bestor has written, directed, produced, shot and executive produced over 30 films, including Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, Circus Without Borders, Beyond the Wall, and ANITA: Speak Truth to Power. Show less

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    The Film

    In 1915, African American newspaper editor and activist William M. Trotter waged a battle against D.W. Griffith’s notoriously Ku Klux Klan-friendly blockbuster The Birth of a Nation, which unleashed a fight still raging today about race relations and representation, and the power and influence of Hollywood. The Birth of a Movement features Spike Lee, Reginald Hudlin, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and DJ Spooky (who created a new score and remix of the Griffith film), as well as numerous clips from the technically groundbreaking but racially astounding epic. Cinephiles, history buffs, and anyone interested in America's tumultuous racial evolution will want to check this one out.