Rome theater to show controversial racist film

A 1915 poster for the film

Despite calls not to show a highly controversial - yet famous - film, the Capitol Theatre in Rome says the movie will be shown as scheduled.

"The Birth of a Nation" is a silent film that was released in 1915. It is one of the most controversial films ever made because of its racist content. The film, set during the U.S. Civil War, is controversial for its portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan in a positive light and the promotion of white supremacy.

Those who are for and against the film being shown don't debate the movie's racist content, instead they debate whether it should be put up for an audience to see.

Art Pierce, the executive director of the theatre, says people requested to see it. He said, "This is probably the most famous silent film ever made, such an important film in the history of cinema."

Aside from its content, the film is known for its cinematic and technological achievements - including a color sequence - and from a financial standpoint is considered one of the industry's first 'blockbusters'.

On the night of the showing there will be security at the theatre, just as a precaution because there could be demonstrators. Rome Mayor Jim Brown says he will not attend the showing. In fact, he had asked the Capitol Theatre not to show the film.

Brown says, "I've been getting letters from people that did not want the movie shown because of the racist aspect of the movie."

A compromise was reached: Kids under 16 will not be allowed into see the movie, unless a parent goes with them. Before the movie there will be an introduction, and then afterward there will be a panel discussion and people out in the audience will have an opportunity to say what they think of the movie.

"We feel, yes, it is a racist film" Pierce said. "Because it is racist, we can't just show it. We have to show it with kind of a documentary wraparound. That's why we're having the panel discussion afterwards to discuss the racist aspects of the film."

"The Birth of a Nation" will be shown at 7:00 p.m. on April 17.

Click here to view a trailer for the film on YouTube.