I thought Spike Lee’s use of the folk song “Birmingham Sunday” by Joan Baez in the opening of the 4 Little Girls documentary was perfect as the song, juxtaposed with the images of four girls that the song was about, perfectly places the viewer into the time period and gives an immediate overview of what happened on that fateful day at 16th Street Baptist Church.
More so than that, I thought Lee’s ability to recall the song later in the film, when it is revealed that Bill Baxley listened to Baez’s Continue reading “Birmingham Sunday in 4 Little Girls”
Once again, I have live tweeted another film. Although this is a documentary by Spike Lee, I do believe it is good to jot down your thoughts while you watch a film.
From this experience of live tweeting, i hope that I have opportunities in the future to sit down in a private film screening to share my words with a larger space. I hope I learn to keep my twitter active to engage in thoughtful conversations with not only peers but the larger world.
My 8th grade history teacher once said, upon teaching about an earthquake that occurred in the Philippines, that “when one person dies it is a tragedy, when 100 people die it is a statistic.” While this is a fairly dark statement for a middle school teacher to make, it has always stuck with me and unfortunately has proven to be true the more I come to understand the world. The death of a few people in a particular tragedy seems to always attract more grief and widespread condolences than an event were many people die. This might have to do with people being able to see themselves in one or two people but not in fifty or more*, so when a mass murder or deaths happen most people cannot even come to envision themselves or their loved ones in that tragic situation.
In the case of the movies we just watched, both 4 Little Girls and Chi-Raq are centered around tragic deaths; however, one movie is made clearly to evoke tears and the other is more nuanced in its approach because of the element of satire. It is not that I think Spike Lee does not want the audience to cry while watching 4 Little Girls and not during Chi-Raq, but one the strategy in presentation of the murders is different. In the beginning of Chi-Raq the viewer is shown statistics on the screen that compare the number of deaths in Chicago to those in the Middle East since 2002. There have been so many people murdered in Chicago that the viewer upon seeing those numbers does not even really get a chance to let them soak in. The number is almost too large to be comprehensible, and because of this the audience begins the film with a different mentality than 4 Little Girls. My theory for this is that four deaths is easier to swallow and immediately emphasize with than 7,000+. It was interesting to hear the class discussion after both films because while they both center around murder and the loss of Black life, one conversation was outwardly more grievous than the other. I wonder if Spike Lee had that in mind while making Chi-Raq after 4 Little Girls, or if even he himself could not swallow the amount of murders that happen in Chicago and turn the epidemic into something other than a satire, and also why he chose to focus the main plot of the movie on the murder of one little girl.
*That was an arbitrary number to prove a point. In no way am I trying to quantify the importance of life or what should be considered a “mass murder.” I just picked a number substantial higher than two to illustrate a difference in how people might respond in a given tragedy. All life is important.
What I enjoyed so much about this documentary was the effectiveness of it. It was simple, powerful, factual, and used a perfect combination of contrast, interviews of family and friends of the girls juxtaposed with archival footage and various interviews with people like George Wallace and Arthur Hanes Jr. Below are some examples or screenshots of moments that were very effective or people who provided personal anecdotes about their daughter (like the McNairs) that gave the audience a visceral reaction. There were many moments that I did not include but these are just a few that really stood out to me: Continue reading “4 Little Girls: Effective moments and contrast”