Director, Producer and Writer

North-American director, producer and writer Charles Burnett was born in 1944 in Mississippi. His sensitivity to the African-American condition is associated with his experience in the Watts neighborhood, Los Angeles, where he lived from 1947. In Watts, he would witness multiple state injustices, as well as the violent police repression of a racially segregated and deprived population of equal opportunities for education and work.

After studying writing and languages, Burnett completed a master in Theatre and Film at UCLA’s Film School. He would become one of the producers associated with the movement L.A. Rebellion, also known as Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers: a generation of filmmakers from the 60s to the 80s of UCLA, creators of a revolutionary Black Cinema diverging from Hollywood conventional representations and stereotypical scripts, and attentive to the real african-american lived experiences and culture.

Burnett’s first feature film Killer of Sheep was submitted as his final master project in 1977. The film premiered at the Whitney Museum in 1978 and integrated the National Film Registry by the north-american Library of Congress in 1990. It was described as "merely presenting life — sometimes hauntingly bleak, sometimes filled with transcendent joy and gentle humor” was then acclaimed internationally. Applauded by critics as one of the best independent productions, Killer of Sheep was awarded the Critic’s Award at the Berlin International Film Festival and praised at the Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance Festival and New York Film Critics Circle.

The humanitarian and attentive character of this filmmaker shines through the tragicomedy My Brother’s Wedding (1983, reedited in 2007); and the cultural and historical importance of To Sleep With Anger (1990) has been pointed out by the Library of Congress. Burnett has received reputable grants by the Gulbenkian Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and J.P. Getty Foundation. He would carry on focusing on corruption and racism within the police (The Glass Shield, 1994), liberation movements (Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation, 2007) and expand his practice in television with NightJohn (1996), Selma, Lord, Selma (1999) and Warming By the Devil’s Fire (an episode in Scorsese’s series The Blues, 2003), amongst other projects.

Many of his UCLA’s colleagues would remain life-long friends and collaborators: Burnett was the cinematographer in Bush Mama (Haile germ,1979), filmed and edited Illusions (Julie Dash, 1982) and was the screenwriter and cinematographer of Bless Their Little Hearts (Billy Woodberry, 1984).