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Celebrating Julie Dash's "Daughters Of The Dust" 20-Year Anniversary

by Tambay A. Obenson
August 22, 2011 6:02 AM
14 Comments
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As we've already covered, Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It celebrates its 25th anniversary this year; another title also celebrating a pivotal release anniversary this year is Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust - her challenging seminal feature film, set in the very early 1900s, which takes a look at Gullah Geechee culture of the sea islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia; a film that, in 2004, was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

The film celebrates its 20th anniversary this year; it debuted at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival, and later screened at Toronto that same year. There are conflicting dates as to when it was officially distributed; IMDB says its USA release date (post its festival run) was December 27th 1991; Box Offce Mojo lists its release date as January 3 1992.

Also, the film's distributor, Kino Lorber lists its release year on their website as 1991, though it doesn't give a specific date, so I'm going with the December 27 1991 date. January 3rd 1992 was exactly 1 week later.

In recognition of the film's 20th, the Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston, the International African American Museum, and the South Carolina Historical Society will host a symposium on September 16 through 17, which will celebrate the film with a variety of events, including panels on Gullah art, African-American film, of course a screening of Daughters Of The Dust, and much more.

Scholars from all over the country will be in attendance, and Julie Dash herself will certainly be present to give a keynote address, as well as lead a discussion with actors from the film.

Visit the Avery Research Center's website for the symposium's full schedule of events, and to register if you're interested in attending.

Registration is FREE, though there's a $30 buffet/luncheon fee on both days.

Here's the film's trailer:

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14 Comments

  • CareyCarey | August 23, 2011 6:53 AMReply

    Admittance too.

  • CareyCarey | August 23, 2011 6:41 AMReply

    Okay y’all I have to make a couple of admissions. I think it’s safe now since I’m not by myself on this one. I too fell asleep - TWICE. I am yet to make it to the end of the movie. See, what had happin... well...

    It’s all my ladies fault. I was so excited about seeing the movie because I was planning on meeting Ms. Dash in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (and btw, I just saw that movie tonight). Anyway, I had heard so much about DOTD that I told my girl that she was going to love this movie. Well, 30 minutes in she was calling hogs, and slobbering on herself. I knew if I woke her up she was going to ask me what she had missed and I had no clue what was going on. So, I thought I’d close my eyes so we could watch it together the next night.

    The following night it was on. We ate a great meal ( pinto beans & rice & cornbread) and the movie went in at about 6;30. Okay, now I’m the big bad arm chair film expert in this house so at about the midway mark she looked over at me and ask WTH was going on. Of course I didn’t want to admit that I was lost in space so I threw a few things on the floor that I thought would give the impression that I was on top of this. It didn’t work.. she said, “and all that means what?”. I sort of relented, I told her I don’t quite know how that light skinned woman fits in the mix, and why these people were all dressed up, all day everyday. Nor what the movie is trying to say (maybe they were sad and happy about moving to the mainland?), but it looked like they’re eating real good. I didn’t quite catch the conflict between the wife and her husband? who was going crazy? I mean, like Blu mentioned, the dialect had me pushing pause and rewind. I didn’t know if the matriarch was speaking in tongue, geechie or what? Hell, I didn't know nothin'

    And, I have to admit that I also thought of Tyler Perry. But wait, not like my man MiddleMyatt (wow, he didn’t pull any punches), but the movie gave me the same feelings as For Colored Girls did. First, chick flick with black actors, many in a ball of confusion.

    Hey, don’t get me wrong, I gave FCG 7 out 10 stars, but I thought the poetry thing didn’t work and much of the acting was pretentious and over the top.

    Anyway, I never made it to the end of the movie. So I’ll have to follow Blu’s lead on this one. Maybe I am just a stupid black man that doesn’t understand art.

    I wish someone would tell us what we missed.

  • MiddleMyatt | August 23, 2011 5:11 AMReply

    In total agreement with CareyCarey, Saadiyah, Blu Topaz, B and others on this one! Daughter of the Dust is beautifully photographed fluff, an empress with no clothes! It's dull as dirt, overly pretentious and impossible to understand (and not to fall asleep on, for that matter). And this review isn't being generated by some simpleton Tyler Perry fan, either (no, I never pass up an opportunity to somehow dis that coon!) Julie Dash and DOTD is the antithesis of Tyler Perry and the buffoonish brand he creates. However, both have one thing in common: very little true entertainment value -- despite those TP truests who argue how all Blacks should blindly support, embrace and defend him, and the Julie Dash poseurs who pretend to really love, appreciate and "get" DOTD!

  • JMac | August 23, 2011 3:55 AMReply

    Damn, were y'all watchin' the same movie? Loved this film. Of course when I watched it I knew nothing about it's background and I wasn't trying to analyze it. Just came across it one day and thought it looked interesting. I definitely didn't fall asleep.

    IMDB hasn't been kind to DOTD so you're definitely not alone with your dislike. Guess I need to view it again too.

  • BluTopaz | August 23, 2011 3:35 AMReply

    whoooo-thanks ya'll. I was doubly shamed because like B, i fell asleep on this movie and during a first date to boot. He laughed and said there should have been subtitles and i agreed---I had never heard of this culture (my own ignorance, not the film's fault), and i could not understand much of the dialect but i was intrigued by this little known aspect of our history.

    But much of the dialogue where i did understood the accents? Carey like you mentioned--went over my head. I loved seeing the exquisite costume design, cinematography, and most of all pretty Black women with natural hair and i got the gist of the plot but that's it. Since then I've learned to watch films in different ways, so maybe i'll try again. It's great to know it's had so much positive cultural influence.

  • BluTopaz | August 23, 2011 2:55 AMReply

    now Carey, you know high art and 'itis are a bad combo

  • B | August 23, 2011 1:19 AMReply

    What CareyCarey and BluTopaz said. I concur. More power to Julie Dash - I'm proud of her. But I tried. That's all I can say. I tried. Beautiful imagery in parts, but I ended up falling asleep on it. Twice! (and I'm someone who has sat through some of the most trying and slowest films, being that I was once a self-proclaimed film geek obsessed with European films).

  • saadiyah | August 23, 2011 1:02 AMReply

    I rented this movie earlier this year after hearing so much about it. I didn't get the movie either. Don't even think I was able to watch it through to the end.

  • CareyCarey | August 22, 2011 9:28 AMReply

    Blu Topaz, you don't know the relief I felt reading your post. I generally don't mind controversy ( embrace it) but I’ve always walked soft when Daughters of the Dust is mentioned. First I thought, I didn’t get it but I thought every black person in the world was loving this movie. I called one of my friends, the black poet laureate of her city, to get her opinion. She said she has tried to watch it twice and jokingly told me not to tell anyone, but it went over her head. And get this, she’s a theater director. And you know what, aside from the mystical nature of the film, maybe I can’t appreciate the essence and significance of “beauty”. I never know what people mean when they use that to describe a film.

    I hear this movie was groundbreaking, yet I’ve often wondered if those sentiments were directed at the Julie Dash, b/c she’s black and a women, or because of the theme, or what? I admire Julie Dash because she is a pioneer who’s still doing her thang, but I have to admit this movie had me confused and I wanted so much to love it. Don’t get me wrong, it had it’s moments but again, I don’t know how to describe it’s splendor.

  • Neziah | August 22, 2011 8:06 AMReply

    Amazing movie that gets better with every viewing.

  • Gary Palmucci | August 22, 2011 7:56 AMReply

    The US theatrical premiere of Daughters of the Dust was at New York's Film Forum on Jan 15, 1992.

  • urbanauteur | August 22, 2011 6:50 AMReply

    Love this Film, Own this Film & its screenplay, its a sin and shame this exquisive filmmaker is left to present her works on the periphery of a marginal mindset and not endorse nor embrace on a international tip!.

    I also own her Novelization of "Daughters of the Dust" which has some toni morrison embellishes goin for it:)

  • BluTopaz | August 22, 2011 6:33 AMReply

    While I'm proud of Ms. Dash's major accomplishment with her film, sometimes I feel like my blackgirl card will be revoked because I've never really loved it. Maybe I'll try it again, even just because it's such a pretty movie.

  • Tamara | August 22, 2011 6:29 AMReply

    I loved this film. So beautifully shot...and told.

    Scholars from all over the country will be in attendance...

    Not just movie fans or movie critics but frickin' SCHOLARS. I think that's so amazing when film is studied; when a film is deemed so important that it must be preserved and given that added extra of a deeper cultural importance/influence. How amazing, really, for your work of fiction to be elevated so. Congrats to Julie.

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