Due to the United States’ present culture of acceptance and tolerance, it is almost inconceivable that 44 years ago there existed an America where racially-charged hatred could steal the lives of four innocent little girls. Documentary films help people to understand these inconceivable situations. They act as an important battleground for ending racial hatred by exposing the sad truths of our past and giving us insight into how to prevent future conflicts. The path toward forgiveness begins when we come to terms with a tragedy. By telling a story of demise to a greater community, the creators of a documentary make sure that the victims of racial hatred do not die in vain.
On Sept. 15, 1963, 19 sticks of dynamite explosives rocked the basement of the 16th Street Bethel Baptist Church of Birmingham, Ala. Eighty children walked into the basement prepared to listen to a sermon on love and forgiveness when the blast occurred. Ku Klux Klan members Robert Edward Chambliss and Bob Frank Cherry carried out this terrorist attack, killing four little girls and injuring 22 others.
Critically acclaimed director Spike Lee makes certain not to let people forget these events by delineating the tragedy of the four girls’ deaths in his first documentary. “4 Little Girls” serves as a sorrowful reminder of the United States’ dark past. It explores the resistance to integration in the American South, particularly in Birmingham, leading up to the horrific deaths of Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Addie Mae Collins.
The documentary utilizes the personal narratives of the four victims’ families and friends. Real news footage and personal pictures reinforce the heart-breaking tales of the unfortunate tragedy. These visuals include footage of protesters being violently hosed down by authorities with water, marchers harassed by vicious police dogs and Birmingham’s former police commissioner, Eugene “Bull” Connor, parading a white anti-demonstration tank down the streets of Birmingham. The home videos and pictures of the girls bring a human face to the disaster that transcends ethnicity and race. Released in 1997, “4 Little Girls” received an Academy Award nomination for best documentary.
“4 Little Girls,” part of the spring 2007 offering of the Cultural Film & Lecture Series with the theme “Forgiveness,” will be screened four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 and 7 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m. Admission is $3.50 for students with ID and $5 for everyone else. Only the Monday showing will feature speaker, Professor Crystal Lucky from Villanova’s philosophy department, who will provide an introduction to the documentary prior to the screening and lead a discussion afterward.
For more information, contact the communication department at x9-4750 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or consult the CFS Web page, culturalfilms.villanova.edu.