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4 Little Girls [VHS]

132 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Maxine McNair, Walter Cronkite, Chris McNair, Fred Lee Shuttlesworth, Wyatt Tee Walker
  • Directors: Spike Lee
  • Producers: Spike Lee, Daphne McWilliams, Jacqueline Glover, Michele Forman, Samuel D. Pollard
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Hbo Home Video
  • VHS Release Date: January 12, 1999
  • Run Time: 102 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (132 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6305080461
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #237,958 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

There are many remarkable things about the documentary 4 Little Girls. Spike Lee's striking, beautifully realized film is a cinematic lesson of what kind of material is better suited to the documentary format. In his first documentary, Lee shares an attribute of Ken Burns: the major event in his documentary is not seen on camera. Except for four quick glimpses of black-and-white autopsy photos, the picture stays clear from the bombing. Lee remains with the faces, the girls' friends, families, and the historic figures of the era. They've all grown up since the bombing but their memories haven't faded. The vital facts of the case are certainly here: the troubled history of Birmingham, the court proceedings, friends' last run-ins with the girls. What touches us deeper though are those witnesses telling us of living through the core era of segregation and bigotry: a father explaining to his child why she can't have a sandwich in a cafeteria and a woman offering up tears of past events. There's even an interview with George Wallace, the prince of segregation, that belongs in a David Lynch feature. Lee's film asserts the bombing energized the civil rights movement and when the voice of America, Walter Cronkite, echoes those sentiments, you believe he may have it right. --Doug Thomas

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

121 of 122 people found the following review helpful By Steven Bailey on December 27, 2001
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
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.
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92 of 96 people found the following review helpful By F. Gentile on March 1, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
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.
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46 of 46 people found the following review helpful By M. Higgins on October 16, 2001
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
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.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Andre M. on January 30, 2004
Format: DVD
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.
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