Director: Charles Burnett
Year Released: 1977
A shallow series of vignettes set in the tough city of Watts in California and involving a multitude of characters is supposed to evoke the 'real experience of living as an African-American.' Sure, whatever you say. Critics looking for an alternative to Spike Lee's view of Black America cling to Burnett like he's some kind of humanistic messiah - cursing Lee's popularity and excess in the process - but quite honestly, I don't think Burnett's a good filmmaker and nothing I've seen from him (to date) is significant or revelatory. Here, the random scenes of inner city life show the community fighting, gambling, stealing or trying to cajole something from someone else with recurring shots of lead Stan (Henry Sanders) working at a slaughterhouse, and if the tacky visual symbolism of the skinned and chopped-up sheep wasn't enough for you, there's Dinah Washington telling you about the bitter earth. The 'power' in Burnett's films is not from what he brings to the screen, but from the (hopefully enlightened) viewer's knowledge of what history has brought to African-Americans.