Charles Burnett has long borne the dubious distinction of being, as critic Armond White observed, “the least well-known great American filmmaker.” In Charles Burnett: Interviews (University Press of Mississippi, 2011), Burnett cites the phrase “the power to endure” as a motif his films share with William Faulkner’s novels; the phrase applies equally well to the indomitable characters who inhabit Burnett’s cinema, and to Burnett’s own struggle to get his films made in accordance with his vision.
Each of Burnett’s films can be seen to chronicle some aspect of the black experience in America, offering black and white audiences alike a moving representation and triumphant appreciation of African American culture, with a strong emphasis on both the rewards and burdens of family. It should be evident from the films presented in this retrospective that Burnett is a talent deserving of a much larger audience.
Charles Burnett and Robert Kapsis will be signing copies of Kapsis's new book Charles Burnett: Interviews on Friday, April 8, at 7:00 p.m. in the film lobby.
Organized by Charles Silver, Curator, Department of Film, and Professor Robert Kapsis, Department of Sociology and Film Studies, Queens College (CUNY). Special thanks to Charles Burnett, Cinema Libre, Milestone Films, UCLA Film & Television Archive, Carolyn Schroeder, Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, Paul Alan Smith, Sony Pictures, Showtime, Miramax, The Hallmark Channel, The Walt Disney Company, American Sterling, Billy Woodberry, Dennis Doros and Amy Heller, California Newsreel, Vulcan productions, ABC Films, Swank Motion Pictures, Ross Lipman, Richard Pena, Billy Woodberry, Kathie Coblentz, Carl Lumbly, and Cotty Chubb.
The exhibition is made possible by The Friends of Education of The Museum of Modern Art.