Killer of Sheep

Director: Charles Burnett
Country: USA
Year: 1977
Running Time: 83 min.
Language: English

Killer of Sheep examines the black Los Angeles ghetto of Watts in the mid-1970s through the eyes of Stan, a sensitive dreamer who is growing detached and numb from the psychic toll of working at a slaughterhouse. Frustrated by money problems, he finds respite in moments of simple beauty: the warmth of a coffee cup against his cheek, slow dancing with his wife in the living room, holding his daughter. The film offers no solutions; it merely presents life — sometimes hauntingly bleak, sometimes filled with transcendent joy and gentle humor.

About the Director

Charles Burnett

Charles BurnettBiography: Charles Burnett is a writer-director whose work has received extensive honors. Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1944, his family soon moved to the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. Burnett studied creative writing at UCLA before entering the University’s graduate film program. His thesis project, Killer of Sheep (1977), won accolades at film festivals and a critical devotion; in 1990, it was among the first titles named to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. European financing allowed Burnett to shoot his second feature, My Brother’s Wedding (1983), but a rushed debut prevented the filmmaker from completing his final cut until 2007. In 1988, Burnett was awarded the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur (“genius grant”) Fellowship. His first widely released film, To Sleep with Anger (1990), was also chosen for the National Film Registry, and Burnett became the first African American recipient of the National Society of Film Critics’ best screenplay award. Burnett made the highly acclaimed Nightjohn in 1996 for the Disney Channel; his subsequent television works include The Wedding (1998), Selma, Lord, Selma (1999), an episode of the seven-part series The Blues: Warming by the Devil’s Fire (2003) and Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property (2003), which was shown on the PBS series Independent Lens. Burnett has been awarded grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the J. P. Getty Foundation. In 2011, the Museum of Modern Art showcased his work with a month-long retrospective.


Films Shown in AFF, Inc. Programs:
Killer of Sheep (1977);
To Sleep with Anger (1997);
Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation (2008).

Several Friends (1969);
The Horse (1973);
Killer of Sheep (1977);
My Brother’s Wedding (1983);
To Sleep with Anger (1990);
America Becoming (1991);
The Glass Shield (1994);
When It Rains (1995);
Nightjohn (1996);
The Wedding (1998);
Dr. Endesha Ida Mae Holland (1998);
Selma, Lord, Selma (1999);
The Annihilation of Fish (1999);
Olivia’s Story (2000);
Finding Buck McHenry (2000);
American Family (2002);
Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property (2003);
For Reel? (2003);
The Blues: Warming by the Devil’s Fire (2003);
Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation (2007);
Quiet as Kept: New Short on Hurricane Katrina (2007);
Red Soil (2008);
Relative Stranger (2009);
Mulatto Saga (2012);
Juliette Fairley’s Mulatto Dilemma (2012).

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