Perhaps the most striking, or is it subtly impactful, things about Killer of Sheep are the children; children that climb and fight and laugh and sing and kick and crawl out from under things, and leave bikes behind as if property meant nothing when they're brought up in a world where nothing is not only a given, but practically a birthright. These are kids that are like kids, not hollywood creations, beautifully represented with the logic of children. the film opens with a stern reprimand to take some responsibility by a father to a boy of about 13, and as soon as that wake-up call is administered, it is punctuated with a slap in the face by the mother, and from that moment on the film is plunged into a lethargy so profound that you can feel the stifling heat of a neighborhood that's got nothing but scraps to kick around. Killer of Sheep is a masterpiece of American black poverty, accompanied by a rich and mournful soundtrack, from the bent-but-not broken dignity of Paul Robeson, to the deep blue sensuality of dinah washington, to the sweet voices of 70s soul, to 1950's roadhouse blues. Here, in stark black and white, are a people that barely dare to speak of the middle class, whose motion takes them sideways, sometimes downward, but forward in only the smallest of increments. And even those steps are dashed by what at first glance would be the fates, but, in reality, is the state of the conditions -- the car ride without a spare tire, the unsecured engine falling out of the bed of a pickup. The juxtaposition of the poor blacks and the sheep going to slaughter should be heavy-handed, but miraculously is, instead, a sad poetry. And even more miraculous are the myriad tiny beauties, the smallest touches the director Burnett illuminates again and again: the warm coffee mug rubbed against a man's cheek and compared to the body of a woman, the little girl in a rubber mask, another young girl singing along with the radio to a doll, a son hiding from his mother on the roof of the house . . . The sheep at the slaughterhouse where the father works are herded and their fear is palpable. They intuit their fate, yet where can they run when boxed in a pen? The adults are of two kinds in the film: those seeking small pleasures, and those too tired or beat up to do anything but sit. It's not a slaughterhouse, but there is no escape. Still, in the end, there are those children, and they flow like fresh water in a fetid pond. Their exuberence is nearly chaos in a void of structure and purpose. Yet when three women gather in the final images of the film to share the joy of one's new pregnancy, you can't help but feel lifted by the promise of hope children somehow always bring into the well of human despair.