Racism in lavender.

It is not entirely incorrect to think of DJ Spooky's Rebirth of a Nation as a remix of D.W. Griffith's incredibly racist silent film The Birth of a Nation. Indeed, Spooky, a NYC-based DJ/artist/magazine editor, says it directly on his website: "Rebirth of a Nation is a film project based on a remix of D.W. Griffith's infamous 1915 film The Birth of a Nation." But even Spooky (or Paul D. Miller—I will use his real name from this point on) has to agree that his is a very strange, very unusual remix.

Why? Because the original goal of any remix is to recirculate, refreshen, enhance, extend, and participate in the pleasure of a great tune. A remix, in short, is an act of love, a statement of admiration, and the confirmation of a musical alliance. Sometimes the remix is so good that it surpasses the magic of the original. Think only of DNA's remix of Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner" or, more spectacularly, the Buckwild remix of Organized Konfusion's "Bring It On." These remixes, one could say, loved a little too much.

Now with this in mind, can one call Miller's remix of the monstrous The Birth of a Nation an act of love? How could Miller joyfully participate in or revive the pleasures of a work that does nothing but hurtfully mock and bend the real history of slavery in the United States, a film that celebrates the rise and crimes of the KKK and bizarrely portrays post–Civil War Southern whites as victims of their former black slaves? Miller is a black American—there is no way he can agree with or love Griffith's twisted view of America. And yet this work is called a remix. How very strange.

Rebirth is a remix in the sense of its form. Miller does remix the images and original editing. Like a hiphop DJ scratching this or that part of a record, or a Jamaican dub engineer echoing this or that part of a tune, Miller emphasizes or deemphasizes this or that aspect of a visual sequence. But in its content, Rebirth is not a work of love or collusion but of political criticism. This is where Miller breaks with the tradition of the remix and does something completely different to its form. Search for as long as you want, but you will never find in any record store or on any website a true remix that works completely against the original, exposes its flaws, reveals its dark motives, and reverses its messages.

Miller's Rebirth is, then, at once a remix and a critical essay about a film that deliberately (and dangerously) rewrote American history. This recoding of history is still part of the ideology of our day. We have not left the shadow of this long film. It was with us when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, and when two unarmed black youth in Florida were shot and killed for nothing. Indeed, the racial coding that justified the killing of Trayvon Martin is fully expressed in this film. Miller has also added to this infamous silent film a deep and dark score of hiphop beats, illbient noises, shards of classical music. You will not leave this screening unmoved. recommended