Killer of Sheep

by Charles Burnett (1978, USA, 83 minutes, English)




‘Killer of Sheep’ was shot as a thesis film on location in Watts by Charles Burnett, then a 33-year-old graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles. The movie was never meant to be shown in public and thus the permission to use the musical passages were never obtained. Finished in 1977 and shown sporadically, its reputation grew and grew until it won a prize at the 1981 Berlin International Film Festival. Only in 2007 were the rights were purchased, the film was restored and transferred from a 16mm to a 35mm print and it received a limited release 30 years after it was completed.

Thematically the film is a reaction against the “blaxploitation” films that were filling downtown theaters in the early ’70s. ‘Killer of Sheep ‘is widely acknowledged as one of the most insightful and authentic dramas about African-American life on film, as well as one of the earliest examples of the politically aware black independent cinema that was taking shape in the 1970s.

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