Killer of Sheep

Part of our Essential Cinema series

NR, 80 minutes

 

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. (1978, Charles Burnett, USA, English, CC not available, 80 min, NR)

“Poverty in the ghetto is not the guns and drugs we see on TV. It is more often like life in this movie: Good, honest, hard-working people trying to get by, keep up their hopes, love their children and get a little sleep.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“Burnett’s documentarian empathy, coupled with his easygoing skill as a dramatic essayist, result in a film that doesn’t look, feel or breathe like any American work of its generation.” — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

“A milestone of eloquent understatement that captures the daily life of have-nots as few American movies have.” — Wesley Morris, Boston Globe


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