Exclusive Short Film: Charles Burnett's ‘The Horse’

No doubt the greatest cinematic revival of the year was the restoration and rerelease of Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep, a low-budget classic from 1977 that finally met its public. In 1973, before making his lyrical debut feature about black life in urban Los Angeles, Burnett made this short, The Horse, which at first glance may seem decidedly different, as it opens not in the inner city but around a decaying farmhouse somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Still, the uneasy mood and the stunning way that this languorous film magically transforms into a discomfiting coming-of-age tale mark it as genuine Burnett: spare, realistic, and haunting. Winner of a grand prize at the prestigious Oberhausen Short Film Festival, it’s an early gem from a neglected American master who is finally getting his due. The Horse will be among the films featured on an upcoming DVD box set of Burnett’s films (including Killer of Sheep), being released by Milestone Films on November 13. —Bilge Ebiri

The Horse, Part Two