McNair will see Lee film on bomb
by Chandra R. Thomas
Birmingham Post-Herald, Monday, June 23, 1997

Jefferson County Commissioner, Chris McNair, will head this week to New York for the premiere of a documentary film about the racially motivated church bombing in which his daughter was killed nearly 34 years ago.

"This is a major thing in the history of Alabama, my life, and my family, so naturally I wanted to attend," said McNair, who has not seen the film.

"Four Little Girls," directed and produced by filmmaker Spike Lee, tells the story of Carol Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Rosamond Robertson and Addie Mae Collins, who died on Sept. 15, 1963, when a bomb blast tore through the lower level of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

The film, Lee's first feature-length documentary, will premiere Wednesday at the Guild 50th Street Theatre in New York.

Plans also call for a Birmingham premiere, along with releases in select cities across the country. The film will air on the HBO cable network in February.

"Originally, the film was just supposed to be aired on HBO, but it turned out so well and powerful we wanted to give everyone the opportunity to see it," said Jackie Bazan, president of Bazan Entertainment, which is handling public relations for the film, "We've done some prescreenings and so many people are walking out in tears, ...This was extremely important to Spike, he has been extremely committed to this project. It's certainly something to be proud of."

Along with McNair and his wife, Maxine, the film features Carole Robertson's mother, Alpha Robertson, and sister, Diane Braddock, former Birmingham Mayor David Vann and former Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley.

Bill Cosby, Walter Cronkite, Andrew Young, Jesse Jackson and Coretta Scott King also appear in the one-hour and 42-minute film. Ms. Bazan said she did not know if Ms. Robertson or Ms. Braddock planned to attend the premiere.

McNair often declines news media interviews regarding the bombing but he said Lee's reputation earned his cooperation.

"Finally I found someone whom I could trust," he said, "If I didn't feel confident, I wouldn't have talked with him. It's very important that this be done accurately and correctly. In all his research he showed that he was objective and seeking a broad section of opinion. I'm a stickler for the facts."

In an interview in September 1996, Lee told the Birmingham Post-Herald he wanted the film to serve as a legacy for the victims - all under age 15 and their families.

"A lot of people have had to dredge up a lot of painful memories that they want to forget. Lee said soon after filming a service at the church on the bombing's 33rd anniversary. "We can't forget what happened in Birmingham. We can't forget what happened at this church. It's important that we not forget the four girls who were murdered here."

Nearly 10 years ago, McNair refused to talk to Lee about the bombing.

"He wrote to me about doing this, McNair said, "years later, he admitted to me that he wasn't really ready to take on the project then."

Beginning July 9, the film will be shown on a single screen at New York's Film Forum theater. The documentary also will appear at other film festivals including those in Chicago, Toronto and Venice.

Ku Klux Klansman Robert Chambliss, now dead, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison 14 years after the bombing. Other people suspected in the bombing were never charged.

McNair said that more than anything he wants the film to put a human face on this tragedy.

"I don't want people to ever forget," he said, "So often when this is brought up, people think of me, but we were just one of four families.... If there's one thing I want people to get from this, it is that violence doesn't pay. "We all live in this small place - the world together, and we need to figure out a way to coexist."


CNN - 'Four Little Girls' takes director Lee into new
territory

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