In the realm of cult classics, Killer of Sheep is king: Arguably one of the most cultish and the most classic films ever made, the movie boasts a compelling lore that involves a budget of less than $10,000 and a release that didn't happen until more than 30 years after it was made, the film nevertheless garnering prestigious awards in the meantime. It routinely appears on film critics' all-time greatest lists. The Library of Congress names it as one of its "100 essential films." And tonight, you can see it for free.
The movie was written, directed and shot in Watts while director Charles Burnett was still a student at UCLA -- he submitted it as his masters' thesis in Fine Art. Due to complications with music licensing, though -- the film features a sprawling soundtrack from ragtime-jazz to '60s soul -- Killer of Sheep didn't see an official release until 2007.
Even so, the film attracted considerable critical attention over the years for its compelling portrayal of black American life in South Central Los Angeles as a series of vignettes loosely centered around the protagonist, a slaughterhouse worker named Stan. There's no real plot, no conclusion, but the film's beautiful artistry and brutal honesty make it gripping to watch nonetheless.
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It screens tonight at 6: p.m. at the Blair-Caldwell African-American Research Library as part of the library's "Seldom Screened" series devoted to black directors.