Killer of Sheep

dir. Charles Burnett

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Charles Burnett's lyrical vision of Los Angeles' Watts ghetto is the most celebrated film to emerge from the L.A. Rebellion.
The most celebrated film to emerge from the L.A. Rebellion, Charles Burnett's captivating vision of Watts in its post-manufacturing decline re-emerged after thirty years — following a painstaking 35mm restoration by the UCLA Film & Television Archive in 2000 and a seven-year effort to clear the music rights for distribution — to rapturous acclaim. The film focuses on slaughterhouse worker Stan (Henry Gayle Sanders), whose dispiriting job wears him down, alienates him from his family and becomes an unspoken metaphor for the ongoing pressures of economic (and spiritual) malaise afflicting the community. Shooting on location with non-professional actors and drawing inspiration from Jean Renoir's The Southerner and the poetic 1930s documentaries of Basil Wright (who was one of Burnett's teachers at UCLA), Burnett achieves a deeply felt intensity and gorgeous lyricism in his portrait of a community heroically finding ways to live and enjoy life in the dusty lots, cramped houses and concrete jungles of South Los Angeles. —UCLA Film & Television Archive