4 Little Girls (aka Four Little Girls): Spike Lee’s Oscar-Nominated Docu about Ku Klux Klan Murders in 1963

4 Little Girls (aka Four Little Girls), a HBO presentation in association with Spike Lee’s 40 Acres & a Mule production, concerns the four young girls–Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson–who were murdered when a former Ku Klux Klan member blew up their Baptist church in 1963.

Weaving archival photos, newsreel footage and home movies with contemporary interviews, producer-director Lee lets the powerful material tell the story, while supplementing the background that led to the tragedy. His docu tries to balance the witnesses’ personal and painful memories of the tragedy with a more poignant and factual political expose.

4 Little Girls demonstrates that the murders and their consequences were some of the defining moments of the civil rights movement, and as such succeeded in raising collective awareness and galvanizing the whole country.

The Klu Klax Klan and Governor George Wallace failed to grasp at the time that their insane brutality was producing heroes, victims, and martyrs.  As Reverend Jesse Jackson notes succinctly, “the Burmingham bombing turned a “crucifixion into a resurrection.”

The gifted Ellen Kuras was the feature’s cinematographer and Terence Blanchard composed the music.

Lee’s nonfictional was nominated for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar, but did not win.