It’s February 20th, and like every in-the-know film fanatic we are celebrating Charles Burnett Day, declared in 1997 by then-Seattle mayor Norman Rice.
Burnett is one of the true legends of American filmmaking (you can read more in this in-depth Senses of Cinema profile), an artist the New York Times described as “the nation’s least-known great filmmaker and most gifted black director.” It’s easy to be dazzled by the strength of Burnett’s filmography, his MacArthur Genius grant, his many film critics awards (the list goes on) and overlook a fascinating part of his early training: Burnett did his Masters of Fine Arts in Filmmaking at UCLA in the 1960s, and was closely involved with the newly-launched Ethno-Communications department there.
The Film Forum’s epic L.A. Rebellion series this March 2013 surveys a group of artists trained at UCLA in the 1960s and 70s, Burnett among them. Their impact on the culture of the era and their lasting influence on fellow filmmakers is/was seismic. UCLA’s Film & Television Archive sums it up:
“what makes the L.A. Rebellion movement a discovery worthy of a place in film history is the vitality of its filmmakers, their utopian vision of a better society, their sensitivity to children and gender issues, their willingness to question any and all received wisdom, their identification with the liberation movements in the Third World, and their expression of Black pride and dignity.”
There are some incredible films screening at the Film Forum next month (including Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust, the first full-length film by an African-American woman to have general theatrical release in the United States – in 1992!), and we are proud to be screening a director’s cut edition of Burnett’s My Brother’s Wedding (1983) among them. Even better, we have the man himself in person to chat with us. Get your questions ready, Seattle!
>> More information on L.A. Rebellion
>> Watch a short scene from My Brother’s Wedding (1983) now: