Killer of Sheep



Killer of Sheep (B&W, 81 min.) is a 1977 film that depicts the culture of urban African-Americans in Los Angeles' Watts district; the film is considered an alternative to "Blaxploitation" films. It stars Henry G. Sanders, Kaycee Moore, Charles Bracy, Angela Burnett, Eugene Cherry and Jack Drummond.

The film was written and directed by Charles Burnett. Though the film won the Critics' Award at the Berlin Film Festival (a.k.a. the Berlinale), it never saw popular release due to complications in securing the music rights for the soundtrack (which included such big names as Dinah Washington, Paul Robeson, Louis Armstrong and Earth, Wind and Fire, among others). It has remained in obscurity for nearly thirty years, garnering much critical and academic praise and earning a reputation as a lost classic.

Shot in Watts on a shoestring budget of less than $10,000 over roughly a year's worth of weekends in 1972 and 1973 and eventually turned in as Burnett's thesis film at UCLA in 1977, Killer of Sheep has been likened by a number of critics and scholars to the work of Italian neorealist directors, particularly Vittorio De Sica and Roberto Rossellini, for his documentary aesthetic and use of mostly non-professional, on-location actors. Burnett has also been compared to Yasujiro Ozu because of his strong sense of composition, Stanley Kubrick for his sharp ear for juxtaposing popular music with images, John Cassavetes because of his knack for coaxing natural performances from amateur actors, and Robert Altman for his interest in the minutae of human interaction. Burnett's self-professed influences are Jean Renoir, Basil Wright, and Federico Fellini, all of which are high examples of the tender, humane and compassionate qualities for which Burnett has been praised, qualities which are intensely present in Killer of Sheep, which has been called "one of the most striking debuts in movie history" by Terrence Rafferty of GQ magazine.

The film was chosen by the National Society of Film Critics as one of the 100 Essential Films of all time and has been named a national treasure and selected for preservation in the United States Library of Congress' National Film Registry.

Having previously only existed on worn 16mm prints, the film was restored and enlarged to 35mm by the UCLA Film & Television Archive and Milestone Films, thanks in part to a donation from filmmaker Steven Soderbergh. The soundtrack, which had not been licensed, was also paid for at a cost of over $150,000. As of March 30th 2007, it is in select theaters in the United States and will be released on DVD on November 13, 2007 as part of a deluxe box set with a director's cut of Burnett's sophomore feature My Brother's Wedding and three Burnett shorts: Several Friends (a 1969 aesthetic precursor to Killer of Sheep), The Horse (an "allegory of the South" in Burnett's words), and When It Rains (praised as one of the greatest short films of all time by critic Jonathan Rosenbaum).Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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