Retro: The Unquiet American


Charles Burnett
USA 1995
13 min

One of my all-time favorite films, this beautiful
12-minute short by Charles Burnett (<![CDATA[<i>]]>Killer of Sheep<![CDATA[</i>]]>, <![CDATA[<i>]]>The Glass Shield<![CDATA[</i>]]>), made for French TV in 1995, is a jazz parable about locating common roots in contemporary Watts and one of those rare movies in which jazz forms directly influence film narrative. The slender plot involves a Good Samaritan and local griot (Ayuko Babu), who serves as poetic narrator, trying to raise money from his neighbors in the ghetto for a young mother who’s about to be evicted, and each person he goes to see registers like a separate solo in a 12-bar blues. (Eventually a John Handy album recorded in Monterey, a “countercultural” emblem of the 1960s, becomes a crucial barter item.) Until this appeared on the DVD of <![CDATA[<i>]]>Killer of Sheep<![CDATA[</i>]]>, this gem was one of the most difficult of Burnett’s films to see.

<![CDATA[<i>]]>(Chicago Reader)<![CDATA[</i>]]>

This film is screened together with <filmlink id=\"3116\">When Pigs Fly</filmlink>.

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