Dissent! - L.A. Rebellion

2 April, 2015 - 20:00



DISSENT! Talk with Billy Woodberry & Barbara McCullough - after screening Bless Their Little Hearts


“The black experience, in some ways, is particular, but in that it is also universal”, says Billy Woodberry. What does it mean to cinematically represent and consider “black experience”? How can one, at the same time, wage war on the prevailing raciological orthodoxy in cinema, and escape from the burden of representation that tends to befall films that grapple with the lives of the discriminated and marginalized? And how does one prolong that struggle, in cinema as elsewhere? In this session, we will talk with Billy Woodberry and Barbara McCullough about how these challenges have been addressed in their work, and in the L.A. Rebellion movement.


In collaboration with UGent.

Bless Their Little Hearts

Billy Woodberry

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. By 1978, when Bless’ production began, Burnett, then 34, was already an elder statesman and mentor to many within the UCLA film community, and it was he who encouraged Woodberry to pursue a feature length work. In a telling act of trust, Burnett offered the newcomer a startlingly intimate 70-page original scenario and also shot the film. He furthermore connected Woodberry with his cast of friends and relatives, many of whom had appeared in Killer of Sheep, solidifying the two films’ connections. Yet critically, he then held back further instruction, leaving Woodberry to develop the material, direct and edit. As Woodberry reveals, “He would deliberately restrain himself from giving me the solution to things.” The first-time feature director delivered brilliantly, and the result is an ensemble work that represents the cumulative visions of Woodberry, Burnett and their excellent cast. (Ross Lipman)