'Looking for truth in fiction': How an almost-lost film transformed Charles Officer's storytelling

'Killer of Sheep' took over 30 years to be widely released — but when then-budding filmmaker Charles Officer managed to get his hands on a copy, it changed his life.

Charles Burnett's 'Killer of Sheep' opened Officer's eyes — and changed the course of his life

Charles Burnett's 'Killer of Sheep' greatly influenced how Officer distinguished between fiction and non-fiction filmmaking. 3:31

Charles Burnett's film Killer of Sheep was made back in 1977, but it was extremely difficult to find for decades because it took over 30 years to be widely released. Then-budding filmmaker Charles Officer managed to get a hold of it anyway, writing to Burnett and asking if he could get a print. Burnett sent him one — and it drastically altered the course of Officer's life.

"It was probably one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen," Officer says of Killer of Sheep. "It was lyrical, moving...It had a sense of very calm urgency in terms of the desperation that the people were facing and continue to face as black people."

Officer said the film also "opened his eyes" to a blending of fiction and non-fiction in filmmaking, something present in his own work. In the video above, Officer talks about this influence on both his career and his new film, The Skin We're In (which premieres March 9 on CBC Docs, and which CBC Arts profiled last week).

Watch Exhibitionists Sundays at 4:30pm (5 NT) on CBC.


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