WHO KILLED THE FOURTH WARD?
Director: James Blue
USA / 1979 / 180 min
Introduced by Ed Hugetz, Co-Producer
Along with Invisible City, the other film produced by Blue during his tenure at the Media Center at Houston’s Rice University, Who Killed the Fourth Ward? is a nonfiction murder mystery about the destruction of a community —namely, the titular epicenter of Black Houston, which had begun a precipitous decline in the 1940s, and by the time of the film’s shooting had sunken into poverty and dilapidation.
Playing the on-camera investigator, Blue finds no single smoking gun, but encounters plenty of blame-shifting and suspicious characters. His approach, which he called “complex documentary,” stressed direct filmmaker participation in solving social problems, and was described by his colleague Gerald O’Grady: “The complex documentary began with a concern for and a commitment to changing a particular situation in an urban culture in which Blue himself lived. It was not to take a side but to explore all the facts in their complexity, and to research the problem in books and interviews and consultations with as many citizens from every strata involved in the issue, either as manager or victim.”