Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
August 01
October 12, 1990
Burnett's slow-burning Anger

When African American writer-director Charles Burnett’s To Sleep With Anger was released on this day in 1990, it was technically being deemed his “first feature.” However, Burnett already was well-known for his 1977 film Killer of Sheep and its follow-up My Brother’s Wedding (1983); both films played at festivals like Toronto, Berlin and New Directors, New Films during the early 1980s but never found distribution and were widely looked upon as “lost classics” from the formative years of American independent filmmaking. (Both films were re-released to huge acclaim last year by Milestone Films.) To Sleep With Anger, though, solidified Burnett’s reputation as a highly accomplished filmmaker with its tale of Harry (Danny Glover), a charming troublemaker who comes to stay with a Southern black family and disrupts and destabilizes it by causing unrest among the patriarch’s sons. Combining elements of fable and magic realism, Burnett’s family drama is seen by some as a film about the personification of evil or the devil (Harry claims to have given himself to the powers of darkness), yet film critic Howard Schumann maintains that it is “not about the so-called "Devil," or about the evil in our midst, as some reviewers seem to think. Rather, it is about a paradoxically benign force that can spur conflict and resolution, thereby helping people to grow and move to a new level.”


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1 August 1986
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