There was a lot of talk around SIFF about forgotten screen gems, recent discoveries and the like. We at NWFF think that every we’re the very best in the city at giving Seattlites the greatest cinematic discoveries, and boy do we have one for you this week. Unearthed for 30 years, this Friday we bring you Charles Burnett’s masterpiece KILLER OF SHEEP. Turst me when I say nothing, I mean absolutely nothing in SIFF even comes close.
Since the film premiered in New York last month, the country has literally abuzz about this brilliant first feature. I will go out on a limb and say Burnett is the greatest living black American director. His films have never received the recognition they’ve deserve but he is noted for imaginatively combining black folk material, a touch of prose poetry, and a realistic depiction of middle-class black family life in Los Angeles.
The stunningly shot KILLER OF SHEEP (1977), was filmed over a series of weekends on a shoestring budget of less than $10,000, using friends and relatives as his actors. Milestone Film acquired the rights to the movie (which never acquired commercial distribution) after Burnett had collaborated with the U.C.L.A. Film and Television Archive to restore it. The film was blown up to 35mm and was provided with a significantly improved sound and picture quality.
KILLER OF SHEEP takes place in and around the Watts ghetto in mid-’70s Los Angeles. The central figure in this realistic, understated film is a depressed slaughterhouse worker, Stan (Henry Gayle Sanders), who is married with two children, makes little money and labors at a dehumanizing job that he hates. The film provides an episodic portrait of this decent workingman’s daily life. Nothing dramatic occurs, but Burnett invests his images of ordinary activities with such emotional resonance that the everyday becomes luminous and poetic.
I can not reccomend this film enough, and clearly based upon the national coverage below, neither can anyone who’s seen it. If you miss this one, you’ve done yourself a disservice. Get you tickets now!
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