Sunday, January 20, 2008

TCM Celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day With Charles Burnett Primetime Retrospective

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Monday, January 21, 2008), Turner Classic Movies ("TCM") is bringing the work of long-heralded independent filmmaker Charles Burnett to the forefront with a primetime marathon that kicks off with his award-winning 1977 drama Killer of Sheep. The marathon also includes Burnett's 1983 feature My Brother's Wedding, as well as three of his short films, all making their first appearance on TCM. TCM's tribute comes as interest in Burnett is experiencing a resurgence, thanks in part to the long-delayed theatrical release of Killer of Sheep last year. Burnett will be featured during the primetime marathon introducing each film with TCM host Robert Osborne.

"To be able to present a slate of Charles Burnett's films is a particular honor for everyone here at Turner Classic Movies," said Charles Tabesh, senior vice president of programming for the network. "Burnett is a cinematic voice that needs to be heard, and there's certainly no better day to introduce him to the many film lovers who haven't experienced his work than on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We are proud to be able to show these amazing and very insightful films, as well as being able to pair them with a daytime line-up of eight classics celebrating African-American life."

Born in Mississippi, Burnett grew up in the Watts district of Los Angeles and studied at UCLA. He first caught the attention of the cinematic world with his film Killer of Sheep, which won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival's Forum of New Cinema. His collection of films includes The Glass Shield (1994), Nightjohn (1996) and To Sleep with Anger (1990), the last earning him two Independent Spirit Awards for writing and directing. He is currently at work in Los Angeles on pre-production for his next feature film.

TCM's telecast of Killer of Sheep is the world television premiere of the sparkling restoration of the film by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. The day also marks the world television premiere of My Brother's Wedding, restored by Pacific Film Archive at the University of California Berkeley and in a brand-new director's cut, as well as Burnett's three short films. Killer of Sheep's theatrical premiere in 2007 was the culmination of a seven-year effort to clear music rights to the film's legendary soundtrack. The clearances were undertaken by Milestone Film & Video, with additional financial assistance from director Steven Soderbergh and TCM. Manohla Dargis of the New York Times called Killer of Sheep, "an American masterpiece, independent to the bone," and Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post described it as "a legend … a work that becomes exponentially richer and more profound upon repeated viewings."

In addition to the primetime Burnett festival, TCM's daytime line-up on Martin Luther King Jr. Day will feature eight classic films that delve into issues of race and race relations, including The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), Intruder in the Dust (1949), A Patch of Blue (1965) and A Raisin in the Sun (1961). Here is the complete MLK Jr. Day schedule (PT listings). Please check TCM's website for ET listings.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Schedule

3:00AM. The Jackie Robinson Story (1950)—The legendary baseball player who broke the color line plays himself in this well-made, earnest biopic. Ruby Dee co-stars.

4:30AM. Intruder in the Dust (1949)—Juano Hernandez plays a black man accused of murder in a small Southern town and facing a lynch mob ready to exact vigilante justice in this adaptation of William Faulkner's novel. Robert Surtees provides the rich location photography.

6:00AM. The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959)—Harry Belafonte and Inger Stevens star in this post-apocalyptic tale about a black man and a white woman in an uneasy relationship after a nuclear attack. Mel Ferrer co-stars.

7:45AM. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)—Harry Belafonte, Robert Ryan and Shelly Winters headline this story of a brutal robbery. John Lewis provides an outstanding jazz score in a film by Robert Wise.

9:30AM. Paris Blues (1961)—Musicians Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier are living it up on the Left Bank in Paris, wooing tourists Joanne Woodward and Diahann Carroll in the process. This beautifully made film features a dynamic score by jazz great Duke Ellington. Louis Armstrong co-stars.

11:15AM. A Patch of Blue (1965)—This sensitive drama stars Elizabeth Hartman as a blind girl who falls in love with a black man, played by Sidney Poitier. Shelly Winters won an Oscar for her excellent performance as Hartman's shrewish mother.

1:15PM. Edge of the City (1957)—Director Martin Ritt explores the issue of integration in lower-class society with this gripping, realistic story about two dock workers in New York City forging a friendship and clashing with a union racketeer. John Cassavetes, Sidney Poitier and Jack Warden star in this film, Ritt's first as director.

2:45PM. A Raisin in the Sun (1961)—Lorraine Hansberry's extraordinary play about a Chicago family gets a sterling treatment with this film starring Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil and Diana Sands.

Directed by Charles Burnett

5:00PM. Killer of Sheep (1977)—A masterpiece of African-American filmmaking and one of the finest debuts in cinema history, Charles Burnett's 1977 classic wowed critics and audiences around the world with his blues-infused portrait of life in black Los Angeles. Henry Gayle Sanders stars as Stan, a man struggling to provide for his family and get by with some dignity. After copyright issues over the film's soundtrack prevented it from being seen for years, Killer of Sheep finally received a theatrical release in 2007. The film, which was created as Burnett's UCLA graduate thesis, was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress and named one of 100 Essential Films by the National Society of Film Critics.

6:40PM. The Horse (1973)—Burnett's lyrical and haunting short film follows a group of white men and a young black boy sitting vigil over a horse the day it is to be put to death. Dave Kehr of the New York Times recently called The Horse "a small masterpiece" and said, "If it were a short story by Faulkner, The Horse would have become an anthology piece decades ago."

7:00PM. My Brother's Wedding (1983)—Also receiving its first theatrical release in 2007, Burnett's wonderful second feature was called by A.O. Scott of the New York Times, "an indelible reminder of what real independence looks like." Impressively capturing the urban black experience, this funny, heartbreaking and timeless film follows Pierce Mundy, a young man in Watts with few prospects for the future. With his best friend just getting out of jail and his brother busy planning a marriage to a snooty, upper-middle-class woman, Pierce navigates his conflicting loyalties. Everett Silas, Jessie Holmes, Gaye Shannon-Burnett and Ronnie Bell star.

8:30PM. When It Rains (1995)—In this jazz-inspired short film, a self-described urban griot spends New Year's Day canvassing his neighborhood to scrape together enough rent money to keep a mother and daughter from losing their apartment. Featuring a cast and crew made up of Burnett's own circle of friends, this film recalls his earlier works in its South Central Los Angeles setting and outstanding music.

9:00PM. Several Friends (1969)—An early precursor to Killer of Sheep, this humorous short film follows a group of four unemployed friends in South Central Los Angeles as they try to deal with family life, a string of broken appliances and the assimilation of their rural upbringing with the reality of Watts.

9:30PM. Killer of Sheep (1977)—encore.

11:10PM. The Horse (1973)—encore.

11:30PM. My Brother's Wedding (1983)—encore.

1:00AM. When It Rains (1995)—encore.

1:30AM. Several Friends (1969)—encore.

Cross-published on Twitch.


Anonymous said...

I guess I won't get any writing done tomorrow 'cause I'll be glued to the screen. I've been meaning to check out Paris Blues forever. Thanks for the info.

Michael Guillen said...

You're welcome. I'll be with you in non-writerly spirit! Heh.

shahn said...

paris blues is playing at the pfa on february 6th, hope i can get there.
i'd be watching a patch of blue. it was my first exposure to the wonder of shelly winters, and always a favorite film.

Michael Guillen said...

Oh, I agree!! Sidney's slap on the back of Shelley's hand remains one of those shockingly indelible images from '60s cinema.

shahn said...

i was shocked by her attitude! young thing that i was, i eventually realized that she was ACTING and have followed her faithfully since.
wish i had TCM, at least for today.