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35 Ratings

Bless Their Little Hearts

Directed by Billy Woodberry
United States, 1983


Charlie Banks, chronically unemployed, struggles to find dignity and a meaning for life in poorer districts of South Central Los Angeles.

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Bless Their Little Hearts Directed by Billy Woodberry

Awards & Festivals

Berlin International Film Festival

1984 | Winner: Interfilm Award - Otto Dibelius Film Award (Forum of New Cinema)

1984 | Honorable Mention: OCIC Award (Forum of New Cinema)

National Film Preservation Board

2013 | Winner: National Film Registry

There’s not much levity here; Burnett and Woodberry present the fate of unemployed black men as the stuff of quiet tragedy. Yet HEARTS is not difficult to watch; the non-professional actors are too sympathetic to resist one’s attention, and Woodberry’s inventive direction is commanding as well. Woodberry works in a mode of poetic realism that mixes the gritty detail of direct-cinema documentary with the cadences and relaxed candor of jazz and blues.
September 08, 2017
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A disarming, hyperspecific and ultimately devastating portrait of LA’s working class, shot in piecemeal fashion in friends’ homes, empty lots and even on public transit, the harsh sunlight beating down throughout. As Woodberry recalled of one scene set on a bus, "We paid three fares, we made our shot, we got off the bus.
May 25, 2017
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The father’s humanity comes to him in quiet: when he’s setting lures, when he’s crying at the end of a long day, when he remembers the child he was, now reflected in the all-seeing eyes of his children. He seems to barely know them, but they know his every gesture, and Burnett and Woodberry make sure we feel the sting of his every regret and mistake. The camera and the eyes of children never forget.
May 17, 2017
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