Monday, April 30, 2007


Charles Burnett is an extraordinary filmmaker. I was first introduced to his work via, "To Sleep With Anger" which is one of my all-time favorite flicks. I've also had the pleasure of viewing Burnett's critically acclaimed and award-winning "Killer of Sheep." As a matter of fact, if I might be permitted to brag, I personally helped bring that movie to Memphis in the early 90's . . . but more on that in a moment (smile).

"Killer of Sheep" was Burnett's graduate student thesis film at UCLA. The film, which casts a harsh spotlight on life in Watts during the early 70's, has been deemed a national treasure by the Library of Congress and the National Society of Film Critcs called it one of the 100 essential films of all time.

Unfortunately, due to legal problems with music rights and the film's poor print quality, "Killer of Sheep" was never seen by a wide audience. But all of that is about to change, thanks in part to Milestone Film & Video. Not only is the movie being released in theaters, but it will soon be availabe on DVD.

My personal connection? Back in the early 90's, I was asked to help organize a Black film festival for the Memphis & Shelby County Public Library System as part of the library's programming for Black History month. The festival was free and the movies were screened on a one-night only basis at the Circuit Playhouse. I am proud to say that Charles Burnett's "The Killer of Sheep" (1977) was the feature film I selected for the event and the turn-out exceeded expectations. The other two short films were "Illusions" (1983) by Julie Dash and "Hair Piece: A Film For Nappy-Headed People" (1985) by Ayoka Chenzira.

In case you're wondering, that last film "Hair Piece" is an animated flick and one that a lot of folks, Imus among them, could probably benefit from seeing right about now (LOL). Seriously though, I'm loving forward to seeing Burnett's "Killer of Sheep" again and I can only hope that the DVD will include commentary from the filmmaker.

If you're interested in seeing if "Killer of Sheep" is scheduled to appear at a theatre in your city (or one near you), this site contains a list of dates for screening locations and other information about the movie and its maker.

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