1 P.M. / $6 GENERAL / $5 SENIOR

TUESDAY 2/18 1 p.m.Special Matinée Rate

TUESDAY 2/25Regular Nacht Rate




1 hour &
25 minutes


Original 2007 theatrical poster for Charles Burnett’s KILLER OF SHEEP. Courtesy of Milestone Films.

Mr. Burnett, then a 33-year-old graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, made “Killer of Sheep” as his thesis film. Working on weekends when he could gather his largely nonprofessional cast together, he used equipment checked out of the university — “Easy access to those cameras and editing machines was the reason I put off graduating as long as I could,” he said — and much of the black-and-white film stock was salvaged from production houses, which would often give the young student filmmakers their “short ends,” partially used reels of negative that still contained a few minutes of shooting time.

Mr. Burnett never dreamed that his film would get a commercial release. But today “Killer of Sheep” is widely acknowledged as one of the most insightful and authentic dramas about African-American life on film, as well as one of the earliest examples of the politically aware black independent cinema that was taking shape in the 1970s….

There is nothing else in American movies quite like “Killer of Sheep.” Thematically the film is a reaction against the “blaxploitation” films that were filling downtown theaters in the early ’70s. There are no supercops or superpimps in Mr. Burnett’s Watts, the neighborhood he has lived in (or near) since his family moved to Los Angeles from Vicksburg, Miss., when he was a child.

This is a community of working-class strivers doing what they can to keep their families together, glimpsed in a series of impressionistic images and fragmented scenes, its rhythms those of chance happenings rather than a four-square, three-act plot. Mr. Burnett has directed 17 movies of varying length since then, including “To Sleep With Anger” (1990) and the television film “The Wedding” (1998), but “Killer of Sheep” remains his most free-spirited creation, the work of a naturally gifted artist who has not yet learned what rules he is breaking. (Dave Kehr, The New York Times)

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