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Charles Burnett

April 1, 2004 - April 10, 2004

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The Glass Shield, April 9

Born in Mississippi in 1944, Charles Burnett was raised in Los Angeles, in an environment he later described as "Southern in culture....A lot of traditions were carried on, and storytelling was one." At UCLA's film school in the early 1970s, along with fellow students Julie Dash, Haile Gerima, and Billy Woodberry, Burnett set out to tell stories about African American life that rejected the clichés of the commercial cinema—both Blaxploitation-style sensationalism and simplistic "positive images." Early works like the short Several Friends and his thesis film Killer of Sheep found unexpected beauty and humor in the everyday struggles of ordinary people under crushing economic and social pressures. Focused on family and community, embracing ambiguity and irony, they set a pattern for the films to come.

Burnett's films have won wide recognition in critical circles, even though they've never received the kind of distribution they deserve. The filmmaker was awarded a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant in 1988, and Killer of Sheep is included in the Library of Congress's National Film Registry. Jonathan Rosenbaum has called Burnett "the most gifted and important black filmmaker this country has ever had." Blackness both is and is not the point. Burnett's films consistently seek the universal in the particular; political but not schematic, they express a generous humanist vision.

Juliet Clark

Thursday, April 1, 2004
5:30 p.m. Nightjohn: Free Screening!
A slave girl learns the truth of the adage "knowledge is power." "A wonderful, fully realized work—passionate, stirring, and beautiful."—Chicago Reader

Thursday, April 1, 2004
7:30 p.m. My Brother’s Wedding
A tragicomic portrait of a young man stuck in a love-hate relationship with his family and his Watts community: an eloquently ambivalent portrayal of the ties that bind.

Saturday, April 3, 2004
3:00 p.m. Nightjohn: Free Screening!
A slave girl learns the truth of the adage "knowledge is power." "A wonderful, fully realized work—passionate, stirring, and beautiful."—Chicago Reader

Saturday, April 3, 2004
7:00 p.m. Shorts by Charles Burnett
Three ironic and inspiring works spanning Burnett's career: Several Friends, The Horse, and When It Rains.

Saturday, April 3, 2004
8:10 p.m. To Sleep with Anger
Southern trickster Danny Glover brings a South Central L.A. family to a dangerous crossroads. "Droll, visionary, alarming, ironic, and deeply moving, all at the same time."—The Nation

Wednesday, April 7, 2004
3:00 p.m. An Afternoon with Charles Burnett
Charles Burnett in Person. Introduced by Marilyn Fabe.

Thursday, April 8, 2004
7:30 p.m. Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property
Charles Burnett in Person. Burnett explores the many interpretations of the rebel slave's life and character and reflects on the nature of history in this thought-provoking documentary. With short Olivia's Story.

Friday, April 9, 2004
7:30 p.m. The Glass Shield
Charles Burnett in Person. Burnett turns a neo-noir thriller about a black rookie cop into "one of the most penetrating explorations of institutional racism ever made."—New Yorker. With ironic and inspiring shorts spanning Burnett's career: Several Friends, The Horse, and When It Rains.

Saturday, April 10, 2004
2:00 p.m. Panel Discussion
Admission Free. Scholars and critics discuss the significance of this gifted director's work.

Charles Burnett appears at PFA as part of his Townsend Center Departmental Residency in Film Studies.

The film series is supported by the Consortium for the Arts at UC Berkeley.