On opening day of the exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, see Charles Burnett’s much-praised debut. Stan (Houston-born Henry Gayle Sanders) is a sensitive dreamer, fatigued by the routine of his job at a slaughterhouse. Frustrated over money problems, he finds respite in quiet moments, such as slow dancing at home with his wife (Kaycee Moore).

Killer of Sheep stood apart from the overtly political independents of the day in its simplicity. This understated drama heralded the “L.A. Rebellion” group of filmmakers at UCLA in the 1970s, and the film’s extraordinary soundtrack samples the blues canon.

Followed by When It Rains
(Directed by Charles Burnett, USA, 1995, 13 minutes) A musician spends New Year’s Day trying to help his friend pay the rent.

• “If Killer of Sheep were an Italian film from 1953, we would have every scene memorized.” —screenwriter Michael Tolkin

• “One of the masterpieces of American cinema.” —NPR

• “What the Italian Neorealists accomplished in the years after World War II ... Burnett—a one-man African American New Wave—achieved with Killer of Sheep: he gave a culture, a people, a nation, a new image of themselves.” —sensesofcinema.com

• See reviews of the film.

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Charles Burnett
Running Time
80 minutes
Digital, B/W