RAP/Clark Conference Film Series: The L.A. Rebellion—Bless Their Little Hearts

RAP/Clark Conference Film Series: The L.A. Rebellion—Bless Their Little Hearts

Thursday, September 28, 2023

6:00 PM–7:30 PM
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Get directions to the Clark
Bless Their Little Hearts (1984; 1 hour, 24 minutes; b/w) represents the closure and pinnacle of a neorealist strand within what’s now described as the L.A. Rebellion, which dates to Charles Burnett’s Several Friends (1969). Billy Woodberry’s film chronicles the devastating effects of underemployment on a family in the same Los Angeles community depicted in Killer of Sheep (1977), and it pays witness to the ravages of time in the short years since its predecessor. Nate Hardman and Kaycee Moore deliver gut-wrenching performances as the couple whose family is torn apart by events beyond their control. If salvation remains, it’s in the sensitive depiction of everyday life, which persists throughout. Written and shot by Charles Burnett, the film’s ending can be seen as a spiritual goodbye not just to Burnett, who would move away from his neorealist work with his next film, the classic To Sleep with Anger (1990); but also for Woodberry, who moved into documentary; and for Hardman, who left cinema shortly after. This image, of Burnett behind the camera setting up a shot of his own daughter, serves as a testament to a critical ethos of the L.A. Rebellion: Black artists telling Black stories for Black audiences. The film remains an unforgettable landmark in American cinema.

In celebration and anticipation of the Clark’s Research and Academic Program (RAP) 2023 Conference, “The Fetish A(r)t Work: African Objects in the Making of European Art History, 1500–1900,” the Clark presents a series of films from the Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers, better known as the L.A. Rebellion film movement. Starting in the late 1960s in Los Angeles, especially in and around the University of California (UCLA) Film School, a group of Black filmmakers began exploring alternatives to the film industry, eschewing Hollywood patterns and embracing international influences, ethnographic study, and African history and mythology.


Image: Charles Burnett, Kaycee Moore, and Angela Burnett on the set of Bless Their Little Hearts, Billy Woodberry, 1984