A classic film, by turns funny, sad and profound, Killer of Sheep offers a sympathetic and humane glimpse into inner-city life — and this affecting film screens with a restored print on Saturday, Oct. 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven.
Killer of Sheep examines the black Los Angeles ghetto of Watts in the mid 1970s through the eyes of Stan, a sensitive dreamer who is growing detached and numb from the psychic toll of working at a slaughterhouse.
Frustrated by money problems, he finds respite in moments of simple beauty: the warmth of a coffee cup against his cheek, slow dancing with his wife in the living room, holding his daughter. The film offers no solutions; it merely presents life as sometimes hauntingly bleak, sometimes filled with transcendent joy and gentle humor.
Killer of Sheep was shot on location in Watts in a series of weekends on a budget of less than $10,000, most of which was grant money. Finished in 1977 and shown sporadically, its reputation grew and grew until it won a prize at the 1981 Berlin International Film Festival.
Since then, the Library of Congress has declared it a national treasure as one of the first 50 on the National Film Registry, and the National Society of Film Critics selected it as one of its 100 Essential Films of all time.
However, due to the expense of the music rights, the film was never shown theatrically or made available on video. It has been seen only on poor quality 16mm prints at few and far between museum and festival showings.
Now, 30 years after its debut, Killer of Sheep has been restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive, and in international release.
It runs 83 minutes and is not rated (some strong language). Cost is $8, or $5 for film society members.