Moonlight, Killer of Sheep and the Violence of Boyhood

Thanks to a generous friend, I was fortunate enough to see the UK premiere of Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight last Thursday. It’s rare for me to find myself a potential source of spoilers, and so I’m not planning to write much about the film for now. Other than to say it is wonderful – tender, gripping, beautifully shot and acted.

Writing up my PhD as I am, I’m almost certainly at risk of the seeing-shadows tendency to associate everything I view or read with my thesis. And watching Moonlight when I’m in the middle of writing on Killer of Sheep (d. Charles Burnett, 1977) – another film that depicts the lives of a working-class African American community with deep sensitivity – meant I couldn’t help but have the latter in mind when watching the former.

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Arrested Movement – ‘Killer of Sheep’ (1978)

My current writing focus is Charles Burnett’s film Killer of Sheep, shot in South Los Angeles in the early 1970s as part of his UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television Master’s course, and remastered and released commercially for the first time in 2007. Part of the ‘L.A. Rebellion’ school of filmmakers, or the ‘Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers’ (Ntongela Masilela), Burnett collaborated with many of his peers in the UCLA programme, including Haile Gerima, whose Bush Mama (1979) is the third work analysed in this chapter of my thesis. Of the L.A. Rebellion filmmakers, Burnett has probably had the most ‘successful’ career in ‘mainstream’/Hollywood terms, insofar as he went on to direct several films featuring recognisable stars: To Sleep with Anger (1990), starring Danny Glover, and The Glass Shield (1994), featuring Ice Cube.

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Unstable Identities and Irregular Distances, AKA My First Journal Article


It’s the nature of academic publishing that after working on something a year ago that briefly took up all of my attention, I almost didn’t notice a couple of months ago when the article was actually published. But since this is officially My First Academic Publication, it’s probably worth acknowledging the milestone. (And of course although I’m being mildly flippant, I’m also quietly proud of what it represents.) Continue reading →

South Central Los Angeles, Restricted Movement and the ‘Green Book’

It’s becoming clear that one of the central themes of my next thesis chapter will be mobility — or more specifically, the restrictions imposed on the mobility of black Angelenos, and the representation of this immobility in works of fiction and cinema spanning the post-war / mid-century / civil rights eras.

A flat tire puts an end to a day trip out of LA in Killer of Sheep (1977)

A flat tire frustrates plans for a day trip out of LA in Killer of Sheep (1978)

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