Writer/Director Charles Burnett submitted his first feature, Killer of Sheep, as his thesis for his MFA in film at UCLA. The film was shot on location near his family's home in Watts in a series of weekends on a shoestring budget of less than $10,000, most of which was grant money.
With a mostly amateur cast (consisting of Burnett's friends and acquaintances), much handheld camera work, episodic narrative and gritty documentary-style cinematography, Killer of Sheep has been compared by film critics and scholars to Italian neorealist films like Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief and Roberto Rossellini's Paisan. However, Burnett cites Basil Wright's Song of Ceylon and Night Mail and Jean Renoir's The Southerner as his main influences.
In 1981, Killer of Sheep received the Critic's Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. In 1990, the Library of Congress declared it a national treasure and placed it among the first 50 films entered in the National Film Registry for its historical significance. In 2002, the National Society of Film Critics selected the film as one of the 100 Essential Films of all time.
2017 marks the 40th anniversary of this landmark film and Milestone is celebrating with a worldwide tour of this classic film along with Billy Woodberry's Bless Their Little Heartswith script and cinematography by Charles Burnett!