Charles Burnett

"Charles Burnett is one of the most widely regarded but little-known movie directors in what has been called the "New Black Cinema". Upstaged by more commercial filmmakers such as Spike Lee, Burnett draws on Italian neorealism and documentary techniques, and tends to favour issues of African-American identity and the general struggle toward upward mobility." - Garrett Chaffin-Quiray (501 Movie Directors, 2007)

Charles Burnett

Director / Screenwriter / Producer / Cinematographer / Editor
(1944- ) Born April 13, Vicksburg, Mississippi, USA
Top 250 Directors

Key Production Country: USA
Key Genres: Drama, Short Film, Family Drama, Culture & Society, Slice of Life, Comedy Drama
Key Collaborators: Charles Bracy (Leading Character Actor), Eugene Cherry (Leading Character Actor), Angela Burnett (Leading Character Actress), Henry G. Sanders (Leading Character Actor), Stephen James Taylor (Composer)

“Charles Burnett is the writer and director of one widely recognized masterpiece, the neo-realist Killer of Sheep, and a major achievement in African-American film, To Sleep with Anger. Imbued with a deep humanist vision, a searching concern with characters facing moral and ethical decisions, and a tendency to allegorical expression, Burnett's work has gained critical regard while his career demonstrates the problems of a black American auteur working in the last quarter of the twentieth century.” - Chuck Kleinhans (Fifty Contemporary Filmmakers, 2002)
"Prior to the release of To Sleep with Anger in 1990, Charles Burnett had for two decades been writing and directing low-budget, little-known, but critically praised films that examined life and relationships among contemporary African Americans. Killer of Sheep, his first feature, is a searing depiction of ghetto life; My Brother’s Wedding knowingly examines the relationship between two siblings on vastly different life tracks; Bless Their Little Hearts (directed by Billy Woodbury, but scripted and photographed by Burnett) is a poignant portrait of a black family. But how many had even heard of these films, let alone seen them?... Burnett’s themes—African-American identity within the family unit and, subsequently, African-American identity within the community at large—are provocative and meaningful. It seems certain that he will never direct a film that is anything short of insightful in its content." - Rob Edelman (International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, 2000)
“A revered independent African-American director of disturbing works on the black family, Burnett enjoyed a renewed interest in his earlier, overlooked films upon the highly publicized release of his To Sleep with Anger, a brooding, low-budget film that won awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and The National Society of Film Critics, among others.” - The Film Encyclopedia, 2012
“Charles Burnett is a writer-director whose work has received extensive honors. Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, his family soon moved to the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. Burnett studied creative writing at UCLA before entering the University’s graduate film program. His thesis project, Killer of Sheep (1977), won accolades at film festivals and a critical devotion; in 1990, it was among the first titles named to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.” - UCLA Film & Television Archive
“Charles Burnett is the epitome of a cult hero—almost famous for not being famous. On the rare occasion his work attracts any notice in the mainstream press, the article will be sure to mention how little attention his work receives in the mainstream press. Despite the public acclaim of critics and fellow filmmakers, the festival awards and retrospectives, the MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, the Library of Congress’ selection of Killer of Sheep for its National Film Registry—despite his legendary status among a small cohort of cinephiles, Burnett goes unrecognized by the larger culture, the pop marketplace. His films are known to few. But among those few they’re loved by many.” - Nelson Kim (Senses of Cinema, 2003)
“Charles Burnett’s films focus on everyday life in black communities in a manner unseen in American cinema, combining incredibly lyrical elements with a starkly neo-realist, documentary-style approach that chronicles the unfolding story with depth and riveting simplicity.” - Milestone Films
TSPDT Guide
Highly Recommended
Killer of Sheep (1977)
Recommended
The Horse (1973), My Brother's Wedding (1983), When it Rains (1995)
Worth a Look
Several Friends (1969), To Sleep with Anger (1990)
Approach with Caution
Quiet as Kept (2007)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
1,000 Greatest Films
Charles Burnett / Favourite Films
Bicycle Thieves (1948) Vittorio De Sica, Blowup (1966) Michelangelo Antonioni, Decision Before Dawn (1951) Anatole Litvak, Emitaï (1971) Ousmane Sembene, Persona (1966) Ingmar Bergman, Seven Samurai (1954) Akira Kurosawa, The Shop on Main Street (1965) Jan Kadar & Elmar Klos, The Student of Prague (1926) Henrik Galeen, A Tale of the Wind (1988) Joris Ivens, The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978) Ermanno Olmi.
Source: Sight & Sound (2012)
Amazon Products
Films / Books
    My Brother
    comments powered by Disqus