Director Charles Burnett Talks In-depth About 'The Glass Shield' - His Most Explicitly Political Film
Photo Credit: Ice Cube in "The Glass Shield" / Charles Burnett

Director Charles Burnett Talks In-depth About 'The Glass Shield' - His Most Explicitly Political Film

Ice Cube in "The Glass Shield" / Charles Burnett
Ice Cube in “The Glass Shield” / Charles Burnett

Film Society of Lincoln Center (NYC) ended its Charles Burnett mini-retrospective last week; a 1-week run of “To Sleep with Anger” and a special screening of “The Glass Shield” that began on the 9th and ended on the 15th, which may travel to other cities.

Charles Burnett became known to world cinema when his 1978 UCLA thesis film, “Killer of Sheep,” won the Critics’ Prize at the 1981 Berlin Film Festival. His reputation among cinephiles never quite seeped into the mainstream, even though his 1990 classic “To Sleep with Anger” is one of the strongest films about the black experience in modern America.

Written and directed by Burnett, “Anger” is novelistic in its narrative density and rich characterization. Danny Glover stars as Harry Mention, a mysterious drifter from the South who visits an old acquaintance (Paul Butler), now living a middle-class life with his family in South Central Los Angeles. Though oozing with charm and manners, Harry has a knack for mischief that leads to clashes throughout the family.

Second only to “Sheep” in its notoriety, “Anger” connects the past to the present in emotionally resonant ways, making the film as imaginative and insightful as the former.

Winner of Sundance’s Special Jury Prize and the National Society of Film Critics’ Best Screenplay award, “To Sleep with Anger” played to acclaim at the 28th New York Film Festival, and returned to the Film Society for a week in a digital restoration created from the original negative.

The Film Society also presented a special screening of “The Glass Shield” (1994) on September 10 at 6:30pm – a cinematic indictment of the racist power structure of the LAPD, starring Ice Cube as a man wrongfully convicted of murder – with Charles Burnett present for Q&A afterward.

Michael Boatman stars in “Glass Shield” as rookie cop J.J., the first black deputy within his department; he quickly experiences firsthand a deep-seated culture of racism within the LAPD, and in an effort to fit in he participates in the questionable arrest of Teddy Woods (Ice Cube). But when J.J. discovers that he has unconsciously made himself complicit in a far-reaching frame-up, he and fellow ostracized cop Barbara (Victoria Dillard) set out to bring a clandestine and racist power structure within the LAPD to its knees. Also featuring strong performances from Bernie Casey and Elliott Gould, the film was released around the time of the O.J. Simpson trial; it’s Burnett’s most stylized and explicitly political film to date.

The tape conversation that followed the screening of ‘The Glass Shield’ has been released by Film Society, and is embedded below. It’s just under 30 minutes long, and very worth your time, so check it out:


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