(director: Bill Woodberry; screenwriter: Charles Burnett; cinematographer: Charles Burnett; editor: Bill Woodberry; music: Archie Shepp/Little Esther Phillips; cast: Nate Hardman (Charlie Banks), Kaycee Moore (Andais Banks), Angela Burnett (Banks child), Ronald Burnett (Banks child), Kimberly Burnett (Banks child), Lawrence Pierott (John), Ernest Knight (Duck), Ellis Griffin (Pasquale), Eugene Cherry (Gene); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Bill Woodberry; Milestone Films; 1983-B/W)

“An engaging and unsentimental independent American film about the black experience.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Bill Woodberry (“And When I Die, I Won’t stay Dead”) is an African-American filmmaker. He directs an engaging and unsentimental independent American film about the black experience, a neo-realism one that Hollywood rarely gets right and one mainstream viewers rarely get to see.The romantic drama is set in the mostly black and economically depressed Watts section of Los Angeles. Through focusing on the problems of one black family, we supposedly can observe the everyday lives of those in the community.

Woodberry is part of the (UCLA) Film Rebellion movement. He made this earnest documentary-like depiction of life in South Central, L.A. during the early `80s when he was 33. His former UCLA classmate, Charles Burnett, the honored director of “Killer of Sheep,” wrote the poignant screenplay and filmed it.

For the past decade the married man with three children, Charlie Banks (Nate Hardman), has been an unemployed factory worker with slim prospects of ever finding work again. From time to time he picks up temporary handyman jobs. Seeking sexual pleasure, perhaps to compensate for losing his manhood, courtesy of the unfair system, Charlie has an affair with an old girlfriend. This gets his long-suffering tight-lipped wife Andais (Kaycee Moore) irked. She works as a domestic and is the family breadwinner. The couple’s agonizing confrontation becomes its centerpiece. The acting between the two stars is brilliant.

Woodberry’s aesthetic and authentic film on the life of a black family was the kind of film the ‘L.A. movement’ of black filmmakers, a group Woodberry belonged to, were all about.

The film was named to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

The esteemed b/w film was recently restored by Ross Lipman with Billy Woodberry at the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Bless Their Little Hearts

REVIEWED ON 10/12/2019       GRADE:  A