Charles Burnett wrote and shot Bless Their Little Hearts and had his own three children play the Banks children in the film. Billy Woodberry was the producer and director, but you can most certainly feel a family vibe throughout Bless Their Little Hearts. It’s a very honest and simple film filled with jazz and blues at the right moments. Burnett has directed a ton of stuff the past five decades, but this is a more personal project. Woodberry and Burnett were key figures of a new generation of young African American filmmakers known as the L.A. Rebellion. They pushed themselves to make sure that there was content for the black community and not just what Hollywood was churning out.
Charlie and Andais Banks live in Watts, Los Angeles with their three children Angela, Ronald, and Kimberly. They are a pretty poor family and Charlie is out of a job, which puts a strain on his relationship with Andais. He does what he can to keep the children entertained, but the frustration of everyday life takes a toll on everybody. Charlie yells and demands respect from Ronald after catching him with long fingernails. He looks like he’s going to explode because normal things around the house won’t work and he can’t find work. Things come to a screeching crash when Andais has her suspicions about Charlie seeing another woman.
There’s one particular scene in Bless Their Little Hearts that belongs in a fucking museum. Nate Hardman and Kaycee Moore play Charlie and Andais beyond perfection while the three Burnett children aren’t dicking around either. Watts, Los Angeles is a place we all know of but few actually know what it’s like to live their day to day. Bless Their Little Hearts showcases the neighborhood in black and white but I’ve never seen it depicted with such rawness. The L.A. Rebellion had a whole lot to say and I’m definitely going to find more films attached to the movement.