Opening tonight at the Film Forum in New York: Daughters of the Dust .
Julie Dash wrote, produced and directed this film, which was the first movie by an African American woman to get a theatrical release in the United States. It’s amazing but sadly true that such a landmark occurred so late (1991). The current release and its recent restoration is to celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary.
I caught it on TCM a few months back. It concerns a turn-of-the-century Gullah family who are making the emotionally difficult plan to leave their home in the Georgia Sea Islands to try their luck in the North. The film is much more “artistic” than I was expecting, much more like a theatre piece or a work of poetry. It is self-conscious and requires a bit of patience, but the experience is worth it. It’s interesting not only for its highly original aesthetic approach but for its glimpse into the folk culture of the Gullah people. I hadn’t realized their dialect sounded so much like West Indian! And because the community was remote and isolated, it retained much more cultural memory of Africa than most other places in the U.S. To see an American movie with so strong an African influence makes perfect sense, but is so unprecedented it’s downright disorienting. It feels almost like the kind of movies that come out of Australia and New Zealand, with Aboriginal and Maori casts. How did this movie get made, you ask? With lots of foundation and public money. It’s been back in the news recently for being an influence on Beyonce’s Lemonade.
You should see it! For tickets and info go here.