Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steele: 'How to Get Away w/ Murder' & 'Black-ish' - the Good & the Bad Steele: 'How to Get Away w/ Murder' & 'Black-ish' - the Good & the Bad "Randy, Red Superfreak and Julia" - 'Scandal' Season 4 Premiere Recap "Randy, Red Superfreak and Julia" - 'Scandal' Season 4 Premiere Recap 'How to Get Away with Murder' Episode 1 Recap + Your Thoughts... 'How to Get Away with Murder' Episode 1 Recap + Your Thoughts... Read What YOU Thought About 'Black-ish' After Last Night's Premiere... Read What YOU Thought About 'Black-ish' After Last Night's Premiere... Storm Would Have to be Recast for Future 'X-Men' Movies. Who Would You Like to See Play Her? Storm Would Have to be Recast for Future 'X-Men' Movies. Who Would You Like to See Play Her? 5 Netflix Streaming Titles You May Not Know Are Available & May Want to Check Out (9/23/14) 5 Netflix Streaming Titles You May Not Know Are Available & May Want to Check Out (9/23/14) Awkward Black Girl's Next Misadventure: Her Own Studio Awkward Black Girl's Next Misadventure: Her Own Studio 101-Year-Old Film Footage Found in Museum's Collection Is Earliest-Known Feature Made w/ Black Actors. First Public Screening in Nov. 101-Year-Old Film Footage Found in Museum's Collection Is Earliest-Known Feature Made w/ Black Actors. First Public Screening in Nov. Once Supporters Now Critical of Actress Daniele Watts, as Civil Rights Activists Call on Actress to Apologize Once Supporters Now Critical of Actress Daniele Watts, as Civil Rights Activists Call on Actress to Apologize Watch First Episode of ABC's New Series 'Black-ish' Now Watch First Episode of ABC's New Series 'Black-ish' Now 'Terror at the Mall,' Documentary on Siege of Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Coming to HBO (Trailer) 'Terror at the Mall,' Documentary on Siege of Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Coming to HBO (Trailer) Thankfully, 'The Equalizer' Gets an "R" Rating From the MPAA (No Surprise Here) Thankfully, 'The Equalizer' Gets an "R" Rating From the MPAA (No Surprise Here) Early Reviews Say 'How To Get Away With Murder' is Very Much in the Style of 'Scandal.' Good Thing or Not? Early Reviews Say 'How To Get Away With Murder' is Very Much in the Style of 'Scandal.' Good Thing or Not? Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) ABC Is Making Changes To The Next-Day Online Availability Of Its Series ABC Is Making Changes To The Next-Day Online Availability Of Its Series Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Denzel Washington Reveals Daughter Is In 'Django Unchained' + Roles He Regrets Rejecting Denzel Washington Reveals Daughter Is In 'Django Unchained' + Roles He Regrets Rejecting Exclusive: Omari Hardwick Raw (Career Evolution, Transition, Testimony Of Faith In Hollywood, 'Kick-Ass 2,' More) Exclusive: Omari Hardwick Raw (Career Evolution, Transition, Testimony Of Faith In Hollywood, 'Kick-Ass 2,' More)

L.A. Rebellion 2013 Retrospective Review: Billy Woodberry’s 'Bless Their Little Hearts'

Shadow and Act By Nijla Mumin | Shadow and Act January 16, 2013 at 3:51PM

EDITOR'S NOTE: The retro is being rebooted for runs in Philly, Toronto and New York through February. Over the next few weeks, we'll be revisiting our reviews/write-ups/interviews on the series (from Brandon Wilson and Nijla Mumin) when it begun in Los Angeles over a year ago... here's another. The overview and complete lineup speak for themselves, so click HERE to head over to the home site for the series.
1
Bless Their Little Hearts

EDITOR'S NOTE: The retro is being rebooted for runs in Philly, Toronto and New York through February. Over the next few weeks, we'll be revisiting our reviews/write-ups/interviews on the series (from Brandon Wilson and Nijla Mumin) when it begun in Los Angeles over a year ago... here's another. The overview and complete lineup speak for themselves, so click HERE to head over to the home site for the series.

Saturday's screening of Billy Woodberry’s Bless Their Little Hearts, couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.

Set in the decaying urban centers of Los Angeles in the early 1980’s, the film is a rare glimpse into a working class black family that is heavily impacted by various economic hardships. If this sounds similar to our recent economic downturn and recession, it is.

The main character, Charlie, played by Nate Hardman, tries to combat these hardships by taking any odd job he can find- pulling weeds, painting over gang graffiti, and even selling fish on the side of the road, but he cannot secure a steady job to take care of his family. Be it institutions, racism, or his own inability, the film doesn’t place blame on any one thing, making it a sobering, human film, rather than a polarizing one. Shot in a minimal black and white film aesthetic by Charles Burnett (Killer of Sheep), Woodberry often frames his characters in wide shots, amidst the settings they occupy and become trapped in. He also has a way of layering bodies within shots, especially in scenes where Charlie’s wife Andais lay asleep in the bed in the foreground of the frame and Charlie sits up smoking cigarettes in the background. These shots form a series of Charlie’s silent reflection of his unemployment and the ways it affects his wife and children.

Perhaps one of the greatest achievements of the film is its ability to capture so brilliantly urban Los Angeles in the early 1980’s, the black people that inhabited it, and the eroding structures it possessed. This is a Los Angeles that was rarely captured in this form. Though the film is a narrative work, the story, characters, and locations feel so lived in and embodied that it becomes larger than that. It becomes a subtle, yet charged commentary on economic turmoil, joblessness within urban communities, and the harrowing repercussions that they bear on families, and children especially. The children in this film come to inherent a world that they had no hand in creating. They learn painful lessons born out of the frustration of their unemployed father and overworked mother, lessons that may not have manifested if those specific economic conditions had not been present.

For all of its social resonance, the film also features one of the best argument scenes between a husband and wife that I’ve ever seen. Shot in one continuous take, Andais (played by Kaycee Moore of Killer of Sheep and Daughters of the Dust), funnels her frustration at Charlie’s unemployment and infidelity into several heart-wrenching monologues and quips that left me (and numerous audiences members) just as exhausted, and exhilarated as Charlie and Andais were when they finished. How Woodberry directed this scene remains one of my many filmmaker curiosities.

Bless Their Little Hearts is often seen as one of the culminating works of the LA Rebellion school of filmmakers from UCLA; Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep and Haile Gerima’s Child of Resistance, being some of the first. In this vein, the film represents so much of the movement’s evolving aesthetic and concerns in representing the humanity of black people against the backdrop of various institutional and economic pitfalls. Close observation of current Los Angeles terrain might prove that things have changed for the better, economically. Others (think Occupy LA) might strongly disagree. Bless Their Little Hearts allows us access into this conversation, building a cinematic bridge, and echoing into the unevenness of today’s economic landscape.


Shadow & ActNewsletter