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Cinema Junkie by Beth Accomando

Killer of Sheep

Killer of Sheep (Milestone)

The most stunning and artistically exciting American film youll find this summerand probably all yearis one that was made thirty years ago. Thats a sad comment on the current state of U.S. filmmaking but audiences are truly blessed to have the opportunity to finally see Charles Burnetts Killer of Sheep (opening June 29 at Landmarks Ken Cinema).

Some film-goers may have seen Killer of Sheep back in the seventies when a tattered 16mm print of the film made the college and festival circuit. Yet even without theatrical distribution, Killer of Sheep received the honor of being placed in the prestigious National Film Registry in 1990 by the Library of Congress. The film was denied wide release because filmmaker Charles Burnett was unable to get the necessary clearances for the numerous songs used in the film. Burnett had made the film as his thesis project while he was a grad student at UCLAs film school. He shot the film on weekends during the course of a year, and he used mostly non-professionals as actors. He brought the project in for less than $10,000. At that price you can understand why he couldnt afford to pay for music from the likes of Etta James, Paul Robeson, Dinah Washington, and Earth, Wind & Fire.