Charles Burnett
USA 1995
13 min

A lovely little parable set in the Watts district and scored to some wondrous jazz, the film chronicles an old man's (Ayuko Babu) attempts to raise money for a mother and her daughter in danger of eviction on New Year's. From the opening image - of a Christmas tree leaping a wall - onwards it's full of fabulous imagery; for its last shot Burnett tracks slowly away from a jazz player blowing on a trumpet with three horns, its music filling the soundtrack. On either side of the player - his feet planted on a street corner, of course - are a pair of latticed windows stretching outward like wings, the whole staged and shot as if the player were on a concert stage receiving the full star treatment.
That final image just about sums up Burnett's magic. He's no mere realist; he's a poet of realism. He employs actual locations and non-actors partly out of necessity (he rarely has the money to do or hire more), partly out of preference (non-actors, he says in a recent NPR interview, have no ego nor agenda). The end result is a firm foundation of realism from which his camera is able to take off on startling flights of fancy.
The material Burnett deals with - poor to middle-class African-Americans, from their slavery past to their economically and racially oppressed present - is perhaps too grim for straightforward documentary treatment; or rather, Burnett feels it's not so much intolerable as incomplete. There is beauty out there, even in the poorer sections of Los Angeles, even in the cotton plantations of the South: You just need to look at it from a certain angle, through a certain sensibility. Burnett finds those angles, develops that sensibility, shares them with us on the big screen.
Noel Vera

This film is screened together with <filmlink id=\"2812\">My Brother’s Wedding</filmlink>.
1983/2007, Charles Burnett, 83 min

  • Ayuko Babu
  • Florence Bracy
  • Billy Woodberry
Chantal Bernheim, Jon Oh
Related Movies