Movie Review – Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation

Namibia: The Struggle For Liberation (2007)
Written & Directed by Charles Burnett

Charles Burnett has always wanted to make movies but has yet to be afforded the same opportunities as his more establishment-compliant peers in Hollywood. So in the 1990s, the director settled into making films for PBS, particularly documentaries often focused on Black history and individuals, attempting to go deeper than the cursory glance most Americans have of these figures in school. Martin Scorsese even included Burnett as one of the directors of an episode of his The Blues docu-series. Burnett also directed several made for tv movies, including an adaptation of the historical novel Nightjohn for the Disney Channel in 1996. However, one of Burnett’s most constant themes throughout his work has been centered on liberation, Black people pushing against white power structures to find genuine freedom, not wage slavery & oppression with a freedom label slapped on it. 

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Movie Review – The Glass Shield

The Glass Shield (1994)
Written by Charles Burnett, John Eddie Johnson, and Ned Welsh
Directed by Charles Burnett

Charles Burnett continued making movies after My Brother’s Wedding, despite it being taken away from him in the editing room. In 1990, he directed what is arguably his best film ever, To Sleep With Anger, which I previously reviewed. That was my introduction to Burnett a few years ago, coming across this movie I’d never heard of with Danny Glover. The 1990s for Black filmmakers was an extremely fruitful period. Directors like Spike Lee & John Singleton found enormous fame and opportunities. People who worked on their films in various production capacities also emerged as writers & directors. Burnett was clearly aware of the types of movies finding a foothold with audiences, stories of the Black experience, especially regarding racism. But none of the pictures Hollywood was making ever really zeroed in on the most insidious problem in these communities, but Burnett sure as hell was going to talk about it.

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Movie Review – My Brother’s Wedding

My Brother’s Wedding (1983)
Written & Directed by Charles Burnett

The career of Charles Burnett has always been one plagued with obstacles. When he was coming up, you couldn’t be a Black filmmaker with deeply artistic inclinations and not have a ton of shit thrown in your path. Today, Black filmmakers benefit from how he carved out a way, and they routinely express their admiration & gratitude for what Burnett did. Killer of Sheep did incredible in the foreign film festival circuit, but when Burnett returned to the States, there wasn’t even a whisper about the movie. In his homeland, he would work in obscurity, a seeming refusal among the white film critic establishment to even acknowledge his work existed. In the 1980s, Burnett was still working, making movies that spoke to him with little focus on their bankability. He definitely would like to have been given the acclaim his white peers received, but that would never happen. 

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Movie Review – Killer of Sheep

Killer of Sheep (1978)
Written & Directed by Charles Burnett

To be Black in America is to live in a constant state of contemplating whiteness. Of course, being a white person, I can’t say with any absolute sense what that feels like, but I can imagine it can be overwhelming at certain times. Eventually, you would become somewhat numb but never enough to escape the torment of it, to be constantly reminded of an artificial inferiority imposed on you by a culture of people who revel in their mediocrity. As a result, in the United States, there have been waves of Black cinema, each with its own distinct tones & styles, attempting to capture & communicate a feeling of what it felt like to be Black at that time.

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