Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi on April 13, 1944, Charles Burnett moved with his family to the Watts area of Los Angeles at an early age. He describes the community of having a strong mythical connection with the South as a result of having so many Southern transplants, an atmosphere which has informed much of his work.
Burnett first studied as an electrician but soon became bored with the idea of making this his career and went to UCLA, where he earned his Masters of Fine Arts in Filmmaking. There, he was greatly influenced by professors Elyseo Taylor—creator of the Ethno-Communications department—and Basil Wright—the English documentarian famous for Night Mail and Songs of Ceylon. He became fast friends with fellow future greats like Haile Gerima (Sankofa), and Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust), collaborating with them and others on a number of projects. Burnett cites Jean Renoir, Satyajit Ray, and Sidney Lumet (The Pawnbroker) as important influences.
In 1988, Burnett… read more
If Charles Burnett were an Italian man in a suit he'd be regarded as one of the greatest auteurs of the 20th century.