Killer of Sheep

killer-of-sheep_01 1

I'm going to see this apparently legendary film tonight. I don't, however, really understand this:

Over the years, "Killer of Sheep" has been shown here and there in museums and at festivals, from a tattered 16-millimeter print. With a soundtrack dominated by classics from George Gershwin, Paul Robeson, Etta James and Dinah Washington, the music rights have made a wide release prohibitively expensive. Until now. Through the good offices of archivists at UCLA and the cinematic saints at Milestone Films, "Killer of Sheep" can now finally be seen -- and heard -- in all its glory.

That's some old music. I have a hard time seeing how the rights holders wouldn't be better off waving the fee, letting the movie go into wide release, and then selling a soundtrack album. I mean, how many Paul Robeson CDs sell in any given year? Certainly it seems like an odd reason for a celebrated film to be so hard to see.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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