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The 16th Street Baptist Church Was Never The Same After The Bombing


This is part of the memorial that was dedicated to the victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing

This is part of the memorial that was dedicated to the victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing

Back in September, we watched a documentary titled “Four Little Girls” in my English class. This documentary was about the innocent victims from the 16th Street Baptist Church bombings, among other things. This was not only a documentary about the bombings, but it is also about the events that happened both before and after this horrific event. Spike Lee, who was the director of the documentary, told the history of the event in a new and interesting way. He used many interesting elements to captivate his audience through the music of the film, the people interviewed in the movie, media in the film, and the choice to show the autopsy photos of the girls from directly after the bombing.

One interesting way that Spike Lee told the story of the bombing was through the music of the film. The music played a key role in the documentary because in some parts of the movie it was more powerful to play music than to have people talking. For instance, at the beginning of the movie instead of making the choice to play a clip from one of the interviews, Spike took a risk and opted to play music. The music that he chooses to play was inspired from the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. This made perfect sense to do this because it captivated his audience. I thought that it helped to captivate his audience because it broke up the monotony of just listening to people talk throughout the documentary. It also helped to introduce to the viewers the seriousness of the events that had taken place.

Another technique that Lee used to keep his viewers interested is the people that he interviewed for the documentary. Spike Lee interviewed not only friends and family of victims, but also other people that were involved in the Civil Rights Movement. An example of this would be that Lee interviewed many of the key figures from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The film of Governor George Wallace’s speeches on why segregation should last for forever helped to give the viewer some necessary background as to why the civil rights movement was important. While it was important for the director to interview the friends and family of the victims to document the hardship that they continue to experience to this day, it was even more important to give the viewer more than one perspective. If the viewer only gets the perspective of the family members, then the audience will become bored and uninterested because the message will become redundant to them. However, the more perspectives that are available to the viewer, the more interesting the piece will be to them. When the audience is interested, they might take something valuable away from the film.

The third technique that that Lee used to keep his viewers interested is the documentary is using old media in the film. When I say old media, I am referring to the use of the front page of newspapers that came out the day after the tragedy and the television news broadcasts that reported the story. Throughout the documentary, the front pages of newspapers from all across the country flashed across the screen. I found it interesting to get a glimpse into all the differing perspectives from all around the nation on this horrific event. Some newspapers made it an above the fold event, while others hardly gave it the attention it deserved. By adding some examples of old media to the documentary, it added an element that would have been missing from the film.

The last technique that I considered important that Spike Lee used in the documentary was the choice to show the autopsy photos of the children from directly after the bombing. The choice to show these photos in the documentary provided the wow factor that had been missing for much of the film. When the photos appeared on the screen, it was something that just immediately grabbed your attention. These images were so graphic that I understand why it was controversial for them to appear in the documentary. However, it seemed perfectly appropriate to show the photos in this situation. By showing the photos, it brings across the point of just how brutal of a crime this was. If the bombing had never happened, then the children could have gone on to become perfectly productive members of society.

I really enjoyed this documentary. Since I grew up in Louisiana, I never really learned anything about the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. When I watched this documentary, I was surprised as to how informative and educational it was. I was not expecting that at all. I thought that this would be just another uninteresting history documentary. I say that because I had seen documentaries on World War I and World War II and they were very dry and boring. However, this documentary was not like that at all. I was wrong to say the least. Spike Lee does an excellent job using many different methods to keep his audience moving along with the film. I was never at a point where I was completely uninterested in what was going on in the documentary. I would highly recommend this piece to anyone. I hope that future classes get to see this film for years to come. It is important to continue to educate future generations so they can learn from the mistakes of the past.


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