When it Rains (1995) – (short film)

by Afra Nariman

When it Rains (1995)

Director: Charles Burnett

Stars: Billy Woodberry, Ayuko Babu, Florence Bracy, Brittany Bracy, Charles Bracy, Kenny Merritt, Juno Lewis


Burnett’s 13-minute short film communicates with most of our senses. 

People you see — living and dancing —playing music that you hear and feel. The camera lingers on people drumming, and playing other instruments, too — we feel the rythym of the music through their hands, their ears, and their hearts. In brief, passing moments, the people in front of Burnett’s camera shift their sights towards the observant lens, acknowledging our part in their stories (i.e. how much of what we see in realism, or even documentary, would be the same without the placement of a camera and the film’s subsequent audiences) — in these moments of characters glancing towards the camera, we are also seen. Burnett’s humanism always encompasses the people in his films — the humans who are actors, or characters, or perhaps real, unscripted people — as well as those whom he is speaking to — his audiences, and those whose life experiences he illustrates in his work. 

Burnett films with a certain immutable compassion that he heaps upon his characters. He tells their stories with compassion; and the characters whom he writes into these stories share his capacity for compassion, observed in their dealings with one another on film. Burnett’s camera is observant, yet never intrusive; intimate but always respectful. He is one of American Cinema’s most humanist filmmakers, and that quality is on full display here, in When it Rains.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

View this Review on Letterboxd: https://boxd.it/3ppJYp

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