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Charles Burnett

writer/director Killer of Sheep, To Sleep with Anger, The Glass Shield

Charles Burnett, a native of Vicksburg, Mississippi, received a B.A. and a M.F.A. from UCLA's School of Theater, Film & Television.

Killer of Sheep, his UCLA thesis film won the Critics' Prize at the Berlin Film Festival, and won the first-place honor at the Sundance Film Festival, and was declared a "national treasure" by the Library of Congress. After winning a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1980, Burnett began work on his sophomore feature "My Brother's Wedding," made in 1983. 

In 1990, he got a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.  The same he directed  "To Sleep With Anger. The film won three 1991 Independent Spirit Awards:  Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actor. "To Sleep With Anger”  won the National Society of Film Critics Best Screenplay Award, The Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize, and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Special Award.  His next film, "The Glass Shield," 2000, is based on a true story of corruption and racism within the Los Angeles police force.

1996 he directed the Disney Channel film, "Nightjohn," that is  Based on the young-adult novel by Gary Paulsen, "Nightjohn"  a period piece about a slave's risky attempt to teach an orphan slave girl to read and write.  New Yorker's film critic Terrence Rafferty called "Nightjohn" the "best American movie of 1996."   Among its many accolades, it received a 1997 Special Citation Award from the National Society of Film Critics, "for a film whose exceptional quality and origin challenge strictures of the movie marketplace."  Also in 1997, Burnett was honored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival with a retrospective of his work, entitled Witnessing for Everyday Heroes.  

He and Dai Sil Kim-Gibson worked together directing the documentary “American Becoming.” It is survey about new arrivals to America who are changing the image of America. Other films he directed include: t The Wedding, Selma, Lord, Selma, The Annihilation of Fish, The Blues.  Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property and Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation.

He is also the recipient of the prestigious Horton Foote Award for Screenwriting. 

Nobel Prize Laureate Toni Morrison organized and hosted a retrospective of his work at The Louvre. His classic film, "Killer of Sheep" was re-released nationally in 2007 to critical-acclaim. Time Magazine proclaimed it to be one of the “25 Most Important Films On Race”.

In April of 2011 the Museum of Modern Art in New York had a retrospective of Charles Burnett’s body of work under the heading of The Power to Endure. The retrospective corresponded to the publication of a collection of interviews with Charles Burnett by Robert E. Kapsis.