Killer of sheep

A film by Charles Burnett. In eng­lish with ger­man subtitles.

Stan lives with his wife and daugh­ter in the Watts dis­trict of Los Angeles. He is a sen­si­ti­ve drea­mer who seeks refu­ge from harsh rea­li­ty in his fami­ly life. His tor­men­ting job at a slaugh­ter­house, whe­re he dis­em­bo­wels dead sheep, visi­bly takes it toll on him, and he iso­la­tes hims­elf from the community.

Charles Burnett’s the­sis film at UCLA, shot on weekends in 1977 for pocket chan­ge, is one of the unseen mas­ter­works of American film histo­ry. It has been com­pared to Italian Neo-rea­lism becau­se of its rough, empa­the­tic docu­men­ta­ry qua­li­ty; others see the influence of Cassavetes’s „Shadows”, while Burnett hims­elf names Jean Renoir as his role model. In 1981 the Forum intro­du­ced the film to an inter­na­tio­nal audi­ence; in 1990 it was named one of the 50 titles in the „National Film Registry” at the Library of Congress. To date, howe­ver, unsett­led issues rela­ted to music rights have kept the film out of dis­tri­bu­ti­on. Restored in 35mm by the UCLA Film and Television Archive, Killer of Sheep can now be seen on the screen again, three deca­des after its crea­ti­on. The film remains inspi­ring – every grai­ny black-and-white shot con­ta­ins so much affec­tion, so much authen­ti­ci­ty, so much poet­ry and dedication.
Christoph Terhechte 


USA 1977, 83 Min., engl. OmU, schwarzweiss
Buch, Kamera, Schnitt, Produktion: Charles Burnett
Darsteller: Henry Gayle Sanders, Kaycee Moore, Charles Bracy, Angela Burnett, Eugene Cherry, Jack Drummond

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