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A book for Charles Burnett, cult filmmaker of 'Killer of Sheep'

We want to publish the first monograph entirely dedicated to Charles Burnett, considered one of the best independent filmmakers in the States. We have interviewed him in Los Angeles and we count on a few committed collaborators to write about his cinema. But we need your help to finance the project.


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Whether you are a cinephile or no, most likely you’ve never heard of Charles Burnett. If we say to you, KILLER OF SHEEP, maybe that will ring more of a bell. It should. If we go over the list of film titles marked “culturally, historically, or esthetically significant and worthy of preservation” in the US Library of Congress, we will find this among the first ones included. Listen, if there were a nuclear holocaust tomorrow, Charles Burnett’s body of work is one we would take with us down into the bunker.

Filmed in the neighborhood of Watts (Los Angeles) in the mid-1970’s, this cult film is the most significant representation of the L.A. Rebellion, a movement of African-American directors who worked in that period to make pieces that reflected their daily life, combating the racist clichés of Hollywood. The portrait of a working-class family, KILLER OF SHEEP has been frequently considered a pure example of North American Neorealism.

After this film, which remains its creator’s most popular one to date, having made a masterpiece at such an early age; nonetheless, Burnett, considered by many the greatest African American director in history, directed several more films in the same line. MY BROTHER'S WEDDING, WHEN IT RAINS, and TO SLEEP WITH ANGER –– a prizewinner at Sundance, with Danny Glover in the role of his career –– are just a few examples.

A jazz and blues aficionado, he was chosen by Martin Scorsese to direct the episode of his series The Blues focusing on the Mississippi Delta. His body of work has been repeatedly praised by critics such as Jonathan Rosenbaum, who said of him: “I think a strong case can be made that Charles Burnett is the most gifted and important black filmmaker this country has ever had.” And yet, though they were uttered by the God of American film critics, it seems these words have had little effect.

We are writing a book and we need your help

As of today, Charles Burnett remains unknown to most people. We would like his name and work to receive the recognition they are due. For this reason, we went to Los Angeles to interview him, and we are hoping to publish a monograph about him, comprising this interview and various articles by critics, journalists, and academics who are experts in his work.

The book will have two editions, one in English and another one in Spanish. You can choose the one you prefer.

Its structure will be the following:

  • Prologue – Alile Sharon Larkin (director from the L.A. Rebellion) – 5 pp.

  • Introduction – María Míguez and Víctor Paz (editors) – 5 pp.

  • Interview – María Míguez and Víctor Paz – 50 pp.

  • A photographic exploration, with commentary, of the settings for Burnett’s films - 10 pp.

Articles (10 pp. each)

  • "Charles Burnett’s Urban Blues as Agency in Killer of Sheep (1977) and To Sleep With Anger (1990)", by Mark A. Reid (Mark A. Reid, author of Redefining Black Film et al.)

  • "Notes on Humor and Comedy in Charles Burnett", por James Naremore (Professor Emeritus at the University of Indiana, currently working on a book about the director)

  • “Music in the Cinema of Charles Burnett”, by Gabe Klinger (film critic and director)

  • “Niñas de atenta mirada: Los filmes infantiles de Charles Burnett”, by María Míguez (researcher)

  • Filmography with commentary – 10 pp.

  • Bibliography – 10 pp.

TOTAL: approximately 150 pp.

The interview is done, as we were able to get sufficient financing for the trip to Los Angeles thanks to the support of two of our collaborators: AGADIC, the Galician Agency of Cultural Industries, and TABAKALERA, the International Center of Contemporary Culture. But we still need another push to make this happen, and that is why we are asking for your help.

How you can contribute to the project

We want to share with you the expenses this project has incurred or will incur:


Round-trip ticket x 2


Travel and expenses

THE BOOK…………………………………………………………..……. €7,270

Remuneration to the researchers, programmers, and journalists for their articles

Translation and revision costs

Design, layout, and graphic materials

TOTAL…………..……………………………………………………..…. €12,070

The book is edited by Shangrila in conjunction with the festival Play-Doc, which has already managed to finance part of the project with the help of its collaborators, but your help is essential to get the rest. Right now, we need €5,500 so that this project can see the light of day.

About the rewards

Your pledges will allow you to be among the firsts to receive the book. Besides, many of the rewards include a volume signed by Charles Burnett, with a personal message for you.

Other rewards include merchandising material of the festival, with this campaign's exclusive design. We encourage you to visit the festival from April 13 to April 17. Come and discover with us the cinema of Charles Burnett. Many of the rewards will grant you a full-access to the festival. The filmmaker will be present to introduce his films to the audience, many of which you can watch at your place by supporting us with a 150 euros reward. This one includes a DVD pack with his most emblematic films that he will sign specially for you.

Finally, if you are part of an enterprise, association or institution and you want to support the project through one of these companies or collectives, you can become our sponsor and your logo will appear on the back cover of the book.

There are rewards for every taste. Choose yours.


The book is under production. We intend to print it around March 15.

The rewards will be sent from April 13 onwards as this is the date when the festival begins, where the presentation of the book will take place.

Who are we?

Play-Doc, an independent film festival that takes place in the ancient and beautiful city of Tui, Galicia, northwest of Spain, right on the border with Portugal.

Although small, we have built a unique and outstanding festival, with a very special atmosphere and a large, warm and welcoming audience. Over these past years we have had here worldwide acclaimed filmmakers we love, such as Albert Maysles, Artavazd Pelechian, Ross McElwee, Raymond Depardon, Bogdan Dziworski, Victor Kossakovsky, Claire Simon, Lech Kowalski or Marcel Lozinski, among many others.

Play-Doc also offers seminars, workshops and live concerts, and has its own cable channel, Play-Doc TV.

Play-Doc is one of the most important documentary film festivals in Spain. The 12th edition will take place from 13-17 April, 2016.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and read about the festival at www.play-doc.com



There are none published yet.

Do you have any other queries or questions?

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  • Play-Doc


    over 8 years

    You can find it here in Spanish: https://www.amazon.es/Charles-Burnett-cineasta-inc%C3%B3modo-Play-doc/dp/8494491962/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1460710945&sr=8-1&keywords=charles+burnett+cineasta+incomodo. It should soon be available in English via the Book Depository.

  • Peter


    over 8 years

    Just found out about your campaign, a little late I know... So, I wonder when and how the book is gonna be available to the general public? Thanks & keep up the great work!

  • Play-Doc


    over 8 years

    ¿Te refieres a participar en el libro, Gabriel? Ya está en su última fase de edición, y lamentablemente, ningún escritor más se puede sumar. Los chicos de A Cuarta Parede están preparando un especial en torno a Burnett para abril. Puedes contactarles en [email protected] si te apetece escribir algo sobre el cineasta. Es un placer encontrar gente como tú, que apoye la obra de este gran cineasta, más desconocido de lo que debiera.

  • Gabriel Acosta

    Gabriel Acosta

    over 8 years

    Hola, me encantaría participar, como esta el asunto en este momento?

  • Play-Doc


    over 8 years

    Las recompensas de a partir de 50 euros incluyen el libro dedicado por Burnett.

  • Alfonso


    over 8 years

    Hola, hay que superar alguna cantidad concreta para obtener el libro dedicado por tu aportación? Gracias!

  • Play-Doc


    over 8 years

    Lamentablemente, solo en inglés.

  • María Victoria Pérez Afonso

    María Victoria Pérez Afonso

    over 8 years

    ¿El pack con las películas está subtitulado la castellano? Saludos y gracias.

  • Play-Doc


    over 8 years

    Hi Rebecca. The book will have two editions, one in Spanish and another one in English. Its original language is mainly English, so we recommend you read it in this tongue. We are going to make this clear in the text. Thank you for asking.

  • Rebecca


    over 8 years

    Will the book be in English or Spanish (or both)?


NUMAX é algo máis que a sala comercial de referencia en Galicia para os que gustamos do cinema de autor. É tamén laboratorio de deseño, comunicación e produción audiovisual; e unha máis que recomendable libraría. Por iso estamos tan contentos de anunciar que participarán na publicación de Charles Burnett. Un cineasta incómodo como sponsor.

Amais, o propio Charles Burnett visitará NUMAX para presentar o libro logo do seu paso polo festival Play-Doc. Será nunha das aulas “Os ollos verdes”, que están a acoller a grandes cineastas na sala compostelá, para falar polo miúdo da súa obra. O espazo ofrecerá ademais varios pases do clásico de Burnett Killer of Sheep, unha oportunidade única de coñecer en pantalla grande un dos filmes máis importantes do cinema independente afroamericano. En breve, NUMAX ofrecerá máis detalles da visita.

read more

#07 / We show you a couple of pages of the book / Os enseñamos un par de páginas del libro

This is how the interview will look like in our book. You can read above an excerpt from it. Below, two pages from the Spanish version of the chapter 'On location'. Design by Calpurnio. Thoughts?

Así lucirá la entrevista en nuestro libro. Arriba, un extracto de ella en inglés. Más abajo, dos páginas de la versión española, del capítulo 'Charles Burnett in situ'. Diseño de Calpurnio. ¿Opiniones?

#06 / Shangrila Textos Aparte publicará y distribuirá Charles Burnett: un cineasta incómodo en librerías

Play-Doc se aliará con Shangrila para la edición de Charles Burnett: un cineasta incómodo. Este trato alcanzado con la editorial permitirá que el libro pueda encontrarse en librerías de todo el estado español, cuando hasta ahora solo teníamos garantizada su distribución en internet.

Shangrila lleva casi diez años apostando por el cine más creativo, con una línea editorial que combina el rigor teórico con el afán divulgativo. Como Play-Doc, intenta descubrir autores y películas a reivindicar. En su catálogo, podemos encontrar estudios de grandes del cine como Nicholas Ray, Werner Herzog o Pier Paolo Pasolini. También cuentan con volúmenes de temas monográficos, como la relación del cine con la educación o el cine portugués reciente; y han traducido a grandes autores como Raymond Bellour, Jacques Rancière o Georges Didi-Huberman.

Cada uno de estos conceptos está integrado en una colección, de las múltiples que tienen. Ahora, read more

#05 / Want a bag? / ¿Te apetece una bolsa?

This is the aspect that will have our bags of the 2016 edition of the festival. If you want one, we have added a couple of pledges with them. These are:

28 euros pledge

  • A digital copy of the book.

  • A print copy of the book.

  • Play-Doc 2016 bag.

  • Your name in the acknowledgements of the book.

155 euros pledge

  • A digital copy of the book.

  • A print copy of the book signed by Charles Burnett.

  • Your name in the acknowledgements of the book.

  • An all-access pass with accreditation to Play-Doc 2016.

  • A Play-Doc 2016 T-shirt.

  • A Play-Doc 2016 bag.

  • A DVD pack signed by Charles Burnett.

Este es el aspecto que tendrán las bolsas de la edición 2016 del festival. Si quieres una, hemos añadido un par de aportaciones. Son:

aportación de 28 euros

  • Libro en formato digital.

  • Libro en formato físico.

  • Bolsa de la edición Play-Doc 2016.

  • Aparecer en los agradecimientos del libro.

aportación de 155 euros

  • Libro en formato digital.

  • Libro en formato físico dedicado por Charles Burnett.

  • read more

#04 / Charles Burnett shows you the locations where he shot / Charles Burnett te enseña las localizaciones en las que filmó

Last October we had the chance of visiting some of the locations where Charles Burnett shot his films in Midtown and South Central Los Angeles. He gave us a tour, explaining why he chose these places and what they meant to him. This will be a chapter of our book Charles Burnett: a Troublesome Property so we have decided to give you a glimpse into those pages by uploading a video of the interview. Check it out.

El pasado mes de octubre tuvimos la oportunidad de visitar algunas de las localizaciones donde Charles Burnett rodó sus filmes en las áreas Midtown y South Central, en Los Ángeles. Nos dio un tour, explicando por qué escogió esos lugares y qué significaban para él. Esto será uno de los capítulos del libro Charles Burnett: un cineasta incómodo así que hemos decidido que eches un vistazo a esas páginas mediante un vídeo de la entrevista. Échale un ojo.

#03 / About the DVD packs / Sobre los pack de DVD

We have noticed you love the DVD packs, as we are running out of them. We have had a couple of questions about them as well, so here you got a brief description of the contents:

  • Killer of Sheep

  • My Brother's Wedding (with the original cut and the director's cut of 2007).

  • These short films: The Horse , Several Friends , When it Rains , Quiet as Kept

  • Commentary track with Charles Burnett and Richard Peña, former Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

  • Killer of Sheep cast reunion video by Ross Lipman.

  • Notes by Armond White.

Please notice that this is a NTSC pack, not PAL. English language spoken with English subtitles (no Spanish subtitles available, sorry).

We could spend hours talking about Charles Burnett's cinema, but we will simply use some words by Mr. White today to convince you that he is a great filmmaker (in case you didn’t know):

《 Here's something first-time viewers of Killer of Sheepread more

#02 / We have a T-shirt for you / Tenemos una camiseta para ti

Como prometimos aquí tenéis las bonitas camisetas de esta campaña, disponibles en blanco y en negro y con varias tallas a elegir. El diseño es de Calpurnio nuestro artista favorito y creador del archiconocido personaje de comic El Bueno de Cuttlas. Está inspirado en una de las imágenes más conocidas de la película de culto Killer of Sheep.

La imagen visualmente poderosa –un juego de niños, pero también un valiente y arriesgado salto al vacío– refuerza para nosotros la idea de un cine que se arriesga. Como festival, siempre hemos defendido a estos creadores y hemos actuado de forma tan insensata y apasionada como ellos.

Así de elegantes y reivindicativas nos han quedado, ¿qué os parecen?

#01 / Why troublesome? / ¿Por qué incómodo?

Some of you may be wondering about the title of this book. Charles Burnett: a Troublesome Filmmaker? Isn't that negative? Not necesserily. First of all, you first should know that Burnett directed a film called Nat Turner: a Troublesome Property in 2003. This is a documentary piece about a real "revolutionary", so to say, that lived as a slave in Virginia until he decided to revolt against his masters in 1831. His organised insurrection caused the death of 55 enslavers in his attempt of liberating fellow slaves in the area. This may ring a bell, as recently Nate Parker won at the Sundance film festival several prizes with The Birth of a Nation, about the same topic.

Burnett's approaches are very different. This one being a very controversial historical figure, he knew it would be impossible… read more

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