From the director of ' 'Do The Right Thing' ' and ' 'Malcolm X' ' comes ' 'a masterpiece.' ' (Chicago Tribune) When a bomb tears through the basement of a black Baptist church on September 15, 1963, it takes the lives of f... more »our young girls. This racially motivated crime, sparks the nation?s outrage and helps fuel the civil rights movement sweeping across the country.« less
Steven Bailey | Jacksonville Beach, FL USA | 12/28/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Spike Lee's 4 Little Girls was briefly released to theaters in 1997 to qualify for Oscar contention as Best Documentary. It was first broadcast nationwide on Home Box Office. It is a remarkably clear-eyed telling of an incendiary tale--how four young black girls, ages 11 to 14, were killed in a 1963 bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.I hesitate to compare 4 Little Girls to Schindler's List, and yet it has that same quality of being a restrained, dignified recounting of an emotional incident. Spike Lee had been wanting to tell this story since before he became a noted filmmaker, and Lee brings all of his remarkable talents to bear. The movie is not flashy, just quietly gripping.Lee frames the incident within the bigger picture of the Southern civil rights movement, particularly as it took place within an inflamed Birmingham. We see the town's police commissioner, Bull Connor--described by one interviewee as "the dark spirit of Birmingham"--keeping order in town while driving a tank painted white, an image that is sure to bring gasps to those who aren't familiar with the full story (which, I humbly admit, included me). And we see a repentant Gov. George Wallace, dragging a reluctant black colleague on camera so that Wallace can introduce him as "my best friend in the world." (Notably, the "friend" looks quite unconvinced.)It is that Wallace footage that might seem the most showy in a documentary otherwise bereft of editorializing. But it seems right to include the footage after seeing how the segregationist tactics of Wallace and others led indirectly to the deaths of Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, and Cynthia Wesley. Using little more than home movies and interviews with surviving family members, Lee brings the dead girls back to life and shows us that, when racial stereotypes are accepted and even honored, individual tragedies are the result.Mostly, the story is told through simple, heartbreaking facts. Chris McNair tells us of the day he had to explain to his daughter Denise how she was taken by the aroma of a cooking hamburger at a lunch counter but could not eat there because she was black. And the film comes full circle by pointing out the inexplicable resurgence of black church bombings in the 1990's.Most of the victims' relatives, understandably, become quite emotional on-camera. It can't have been easy to reopen these old wounds, but 4 Little Girls makes you grateful that they endured their pain to do it. I only wish the movie had been up for Best Picture, as it is worth a dozen L.A. Confidential's.4 Little Girls is rated TV-14 for violence, brief nudity, and racial epithets."
F. Gentile | Lake Worth, Florida, United States | 03/01/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've just watched this powerful film for the second time, and was just as devestated as on first viewing. I'm an avid viewer of good documentaries, and this is one of the most moving, disturbing I've ever seen. Spike Lee's film of the 1963 bombing of The 16th Street Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which took the lives of four little girls, and became a symbol of the civil rights movement, is not a film that will make you feel comfortable, and it shouldn't. Told through the recollections of their family members and friends, the sense of loss is overwhelming. The fact that all those interviewed, especially the little girls parents, display such eloquent dignity only makes it all the more moving. Though I have none of the "attributes" of the hateful leaders of prejudice shown in this film, such as George Wallace and the repulsive "Bull", as a caucasian male, my sense of shame, and, my outrage, only increased as the story forebodingly unfolds to the inevitable event itself. The segment where a modern day, supposedly repentant Wallace fumbles witlessly and unconvincingly is especially poignant. Spike Lee has not only crafted a work of art, but allowed the tragic story to tell itself. An unbelievably moving film that will leave you deeply saddened at the irrational, hateful taking of the lives of four beautiful little girls, whose futures, if they can be compared to any one of their family members or friends, held such undoubted promise. An un-flinching look at these not so long ago shameful events, that everyone should see."
Andre M. | Mt. Pleasant, SC United States | 01/30/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Having been to Birmingham numerous occasions and having met Mr. Chris McNair (who is now a county commissioner) as well as Carolyn McKinstrey, who also appears in this film (she was a survivor of the church bombing), I pretty much knew the story, but was pleased with the way it was told. A really fascinating segment for me was seeing the actual home movie of Denise Mc Nair and a couple of the other girls. Good job Spike. This is by far his best film.The DVD extras are very good, particularly the pathetic interview with the notorious George Wallace uncut. Poor Ed (see the film and you'll understand that last statement).Only minor complaint is that there isn't a scene selection on the DVD. You'll have to watch it all the way through. Also, it would be nice if some mention was made of Johnny Robinson and Virgil Ware (the two little boys who were also killed on that fateful Sunday, which is another story waiting to be told).But that aside, it's great that Spike did this while so many of those who were around to remember all this are still alive. This is history that needs to be seen."
M. Higgins | DEAVER, WY USA | 10/17/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having read the reviews on this site before viewing this documentary I was prepared for a powerful viewing experience. But, because I already had an inkling of what I would see I won't say I was stunned by anything I saw. I was left with a slow, lingering, disturbing, gnawing feeling--perhaps like a hole. This is the type of movie whose scenes will replay in your mind when you can't sleep at night. I think Spike Lee produced in me just the feelings he was trying to evoke. I found the interview with former governor of Alabama, George Wallace, particularly chilling and masterfully crafted by Mr. Lee. The interviews with the parents and siblings of the victims were heart-wrenching without being melodramatic or sensationalistic. This movie is not only about the girls but the Civil Rights struggle in Birmingham. As a history teacher, I can hardly imagine a movie which would be more effective in covering the issues, the sacrifices and the legacy of the Civil Rights movement."
Brilliant teacher's aid
E. Keats | Grayslake,, Il USA | 09/16/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In my college writing classes, I cover issues of diversity, and I'm amazed at my students' ignorance of the civil rights movement. All they know is that they get Dr. King's birthday off. This film leaves them shattered, opens their eyes like nothing else I have tried. I would highly recommend it to teachers at the high school and college level if you want to expand your students' appreciation of how we got where we are today and the heroes (and monsters) who lived through it all. Lee's film, which should have won the Oscar, will leave you changed. I recommend it to anyone."