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Killer of Sheep

7.0
519
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Original title
Killer of Sheep
Year
Running time
83 min.
Country
United States United States
Director
Screenwriter
Charles Burnett
Cinematography
Charles Burnett (B&W)
Cast
, , , , ,
Producer
Milestone Film & Video
Genre
Drama | Family Relationships. Racism. Independent Film (US). Cult Movie
Synopsis / Plot
The first feature film from acclaimed independent African American filmmaker Charles Burnett, this intensely emotional drama concerns a man who makes his living at a slaughterhouse as he struggles for economic and emotional survival and tries to patch up his often strained relationship with his family. Shot on weekends over a period of several years, it was added to the Library of Congress' National Film Registry in 1990.

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.

Killer of Sheep was shot on location in Watts in a series of weekends on a budget of less than $10,000, most of which was grant money. Finished in 1977 and shown sporadically, its reputation grew and grew until it won a prize at the 1981 Berlin International Film Festival.

Since then, the Library of Congress has declared it a national treasure as one of the first fifty on the National Film Registry and the National Society of Film Critics selected it as one of the "100 Essential Films" of all time. However, due to the expense of the music rights, the film was never shown theatrically or made available on video. It has only been seen on poor quality 16mm prints at few and far between museum and festival showings.
Awards
1981: Berlin Film Festival: Won FIPRESCI Prize (Forum of New Cinema)
2007: New York Film Critics Circle Awards: Special Award Winner
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