KILLER OF SHEEP - A Film By Charles Burnett

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.

Killer of Sheep was shot on location in Watts in a series of weekends on a budget of less than $10,000, most of which was grant money. Finished in 1977 and shown sporadically, its reputation grew and grew until it won a prize at the 1981 Berlin International Film Festival.

Since then, the Library of Congress has declared it a national treasure as one of the first fifty on the National Film Registry and the National Society of Film Critics selected it as one of the "100 Essential Films" of all time. However, due to the expense of the music rights, the film was never shown theatrically or made available on video. It has only been seen on poor quality 16mm prints at few and far between museum and festival showings.

Now, thirty years after its debut, the new 35mm print of Killer of Sheep, brilliantly restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive, is ready for its long-awaited international release.

Milestone's premiere of the restored Killer of Sheep was at the 2007 Berlinale Film Festival and the theatrical release begins in Spring of this year.

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The Charles Burnett Project was completed with the support of International Film Circuit, Inc., Steven Soderbergh and Turner Classic Movies. Shot in 16mm, restored to 35mm by UCLA Film and Television Archive. Sound restoration in collaboration with Audio Mechanics. © 1977 Charles Burnett.


"If Killer of Sheep were an Italian film from 1953, we would have every scene memorized."

"Killer of Sheep caught the lives of the children with a fidelity to how kids really do fight, play, and cry — and how they can sometimes be cruel simply because they're so scared."

"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 new images of themselves."

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