Selected by the Library of Congress as one of the first 100 films in the National Film Registry, Killer of Sheep is arguably one of the two or three most important African-American features in history, and yet it has been little seen since its completion. The film tells the story of Stan (Henry G. Sanders), a Watts resident who works in a slaughterhouse. With little hope for the future, Stan finds beauty in the small things of everyday life.
Though critics have called him the most significant African-American filmmaker in history, Burnett's career has often fallen off the radar. Two of his biggest films, To Sleep with Anger (1990), starring Danny Glover, and The Glass Shield (1995), with Ice Cube and Lori Petty, suffered from bad distribution and advertising. In recent years, he has found slightly steadier work in television; he contributed an episode to the 2003 mini-series "The Blues," which also featured episodes by Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese.
Even so, Burnett is reportedly at work on a new film, Nujoma: Where Others Wavered, shooting in Africa. In addition to Killer of Sheep, Milestone is also releasing Burnett's feature My Brother's Wedding (1983) and three short films, Several Friends (1969), The Horse (1973) and When It Rains (1995), to selected theaters. A DVD box set will follow in the fall.