Killer of Sheep

Charles Burnett

USA 1978. 80 Min.
bw. 35 mm. E/d

Killer of Sheep, one of the most influential and seminal works of the Black Independent Movement, which arose at the UCLA Film School in the 1970s, was filmed in 1977 in black-and-white in the Watts district of Los Angeles, mostly with amateur actors, and has been widely praised as a sensitive and authentic piece of cinematic documentation of African-American life.


In his debut, Charles Burnett – who was born in 1944 in Vicksburg, Mississippi and grew up in Watts – portrays the miserable living conditions of the slaughter- house worker Stan, his family and his friends. Stan is a sensitive man, who can stand the professional killing less and less each day, and is forced to close himself off more and more. He is in danger of loosing the loving affection of his family, for whom he is taking on this work. The filmmaker combines and accentuates the rough, documentary-like footage with a poignant blend of Blues, Jazz and pop music, and edits sequences of great poetic force, through which he reveals the attrition and exhaustion caused by poverty. The way he shapes the emotional distress of his protagonist not only reflects Burnett’s social-political critique, but also makes a fundamental statement about the basis of existence for all those who have nothing. (as)


DirectorCharles Burnett
ScreenplayCharles Burnett
CinematographyCharles Burnett
EditingCharles Burnett
WithHenry Gayle Sanders, Kaycee Moore, Charles Bracy, Angela Burnett
ProducerCharles Burnett