Close Up

6 May 2016: Several Friends + Killer of Sheep

Several Friends
Charles Burnett
1969 | 21 min | B/W | Digibeta

In Charles Burnett’s first student film, Several Friends, a group of eccentric and endearing young people converse in a variety of everyday settings.

Killer of Sheep
Charles Burnett
1977 | 81 min | B/W | 35mm

"[Killer of Sheep] takes us down the corridors of everyday lives in the black ghetto of Watts, where past and future memories of riots are festering, where the brightest light seems to be coming from the shimmers of the “no way out” signs. But rather than setting out to uncover a socio-political reality that lies beyond the surface of what is present, it makes sensible what is too close up to see: the internal ghetto of emotional devastation, suffocation, exhaustion, disorientation. Desperation is always round the corner, but its looming threat is met with resilience, indicative of a capacity to escape from the slipstream of imposed realities and identities. Just like the blues lullabies that drift in and out of the frame, the film draws its strength from its oscillation between disillusionment and promise, between vulnerability and waywardness. Drawing inspiration from Jean Renoir’s The Southerner (1945) and James Agee’s Let us now Praise Famous Men (1941), Killer of Sheep manages to convey a heartfelt sense of dignity and possibility by the agency of nonprofessional actors and location shooting. Although the film was finished in 1977, it took thirty years before the music rights were cleared for commercial distribution. Since then, this tender humanist ode to urban existence is shining more brightly, and perhaps more urgently, than ever before." – Argos

Part of our Charles Burnett season