The line of people hoping to see the documentary wound around the block. Source: WBRC video
Spike Lee at the '4 Little Girls' documentary screening. Source: WBRC video
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -
Empowerment Week attendees enjoyed a special screening of the documentary film, "Four Little Girls" at the Alabama Theatre.
Spike Lee directed the documentary and attended the viewing. He says that the project was one close to his heart. He spent many summers in Alabama as a child with his relatives in Wilcox County.
Lee tells FOX6 he got the idea to make this documentary after reading an article while attending NYU film school. He says he wanted to make sure the "4 Little Girls," Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Addie Mae Collins, would never be forgotten.
Sunday, about 1,000 people formed a line that wrapped around the block to attend the viewing. We asked Lee how he managed to convince the families to allow him to tell such a painful story.
Lee says he started with Chris McNair. He says he sent McNair an email asking permission to do a narrative film about his daughter, Denise. Lee says McNair didn't respond but he tried again many years later around the time he came to Birmingham to accept an award.
He says on a whim he looked McNair up in the phone book and gave him a call. He says McNair asked him where he was staying and when he found out Lee was at a hotel, he told the filmmaker, "you're staying with us." McNair wanted Lee to meet his entire family, in fact.
"And that's when I told him, I want to do this documentary. And I knew that if I got the McNairs in palce, that would enable me to get to all the other families," Lee said.
Rep. Terri Sewell offered Lee a replica of the Congressional Gold Medal given posthumously to the four girls, but he says he couldn't accept it. He offered it to Fred Shuttlesworth's familiy in honor of his work to improve civil rights in Birmingham and around the world.