“If the history of the cinema … is worth anything at all, it’s in the transmission not of a mere story about past influence nor even of documentation of past circumstances but of a direct, firsthand experience with artistic creativity, with original inspiration and its yet unforeseen influence on the future.” — Richard Brody, New Yorker Magazine
BLESS THEIR LITTLE HEARTS, a landmark of American independent cinema will open Wednesday, May 17 for exclusive theatrical engagements at IFC Center. Named to the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress, the films represent a high-water mark from the “L.A. Rebellion,” a group of African-American filmmakers who came out of UCLA in the 1960s-1980s that also included Haile Gerima (Sankofa) and Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust). Director Billy Woodberry will appear in person for post-screening Q&As on the opening night of the engagement.
Billy Woodberry’s BLESS THEIR LITTLE HEARTS (1983), written and shot by Burnett and starring KILLER OF SHEEP’s Kaycee Moore, chronicles the devastating toll that joblessness takes on a married couple and their children. Added to the National Film Registry in 2013, “Part of the vibrant New Wave of independent African-American filmmakers to emerge in the 1970s and 1980s, Billy Woodberry became a key figure in the movement known as the L.A. Rebellion. Woodberry crafted his UCLA thesis film, “Bless Their Little Hearts,” which was theatrically released in 1984. The film features a script and cinematography by Charles Burnett. This spare, emotionally resonant portrait of family life during times of struggle blends grinding, daily-life sadness with scenes of deft humor. Jim Ridley of the “Village Voice” aptly summed up the film’s understated-but- real virtues: “Its poetry lies in the exaltation of ordinary detail.”
Restoration by UCLA Film & Television Archive. Restored by Ross Lipman in consultation with Billy Woodberry. 35mm Picture Restoration by The Stanford Theater Film Laboratory and Fotokem. Restored from the original 16mm b/w negative A/B rolls and the original 16mm optical soundtrack. With funding from The National Film Preservation Foundation and The Packard Humanities Institute. Sound Restoration by Audio Mechanics. Sound Transfers by NT Picture and Sound. Special Thanks: Charles Burnett, Allyson Field, Sean Hewitt, Jan-Christopher Horak, Shawn Jones, John Polito, Jacqueline Stewart, Dave Tucker, Danielle Faye, Todd Wiener.
Digital restoration (cleanup, stabilization, de-flicker) and DCP by Re-Kino and DI Factory, Warsaw, Poland. Funding by Milestone Film & Video.
In many theatrical venues, the rarely shown feature will be accompanied by Woodberry’s 1980 short THE POCKETBOOK.