To Sleep with Anger

To Sleep with Anger—director Charles Burnett’s 3rd major release (following Killer of Sheep and My Brother’s Wedding)—explores the past that many African-Americans left behind to ascend into the middle class of America. The rituals and superstitions that provided comfort and a hidden meaning to the lives of Black Americans in the South are arcane and menacing in late 1980s Los Angeles. Gideon (Paul Butler) and his wife Suzie (Mary Alice) have started a new chapter in their lives, and have a growing and prosperous family to show for their efforts. A menacing Harry (Danny Glover) arrives as a dark cloud over the community of Southern expats that have found a new beginning in sunny California. With a wink in his eye and a silver tongue, Harry weaves a web that soon ensnares the entire family and other members of their tight-knit community. As Harry and his ilk move in on the family home the darkness spreads and threatens to destroy the safe haven that Gideon and Alice had worked so hard to create. Hats on beds, curses long forgotten, and sibling rivalry are the ingredients of a tale of family love and strength that can overcome the darkest of omens. Charles Burnett is a prolific member of the L.A. Rebellion movement, a collection of black filmmakers who studied at UCLA Film School from the late 1960s to the late ’80s. A MacArthur Fellowship award winner, Burnett’s work explores the tensions—both seen and unseen—that beset African-Americans no matter their station in life. “We were aiming these films to try to say something about society, and how to make changes. And I found that their changes didn’t relate to anything similar to reality, at least not in my community. So, I wanted to make a film that represented that if you were living in my community, what you would see and experience. How best can we create a solution?”—Charles Burnett.

Genres: Drama