Julie Dash’s land­mark ‘Daugh­ters of the Dust’ is re­born

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Julie Dash’s 1991 film “Daugh­ters of the Dust” was the first film di­rected by an African Amer­i­can woman to get a na­tion­wide the­atri­cal re­lease. When it pre­miered at the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val, its di­rec­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy, Arthur Jafa, won best cine­matog­ra­phy. In 2004, it was added to the Li­brary of Congress’s Na­tional Film Reg­istry. Rap­tur­ously lyri­cal, wholly orig­i­nal, it’s been called “a land­mark achieve­ment” and “one of the most dis­tinc­tive, orig­i­nal in­de­pen­dent films of its time.”

And yet Dash - though she has since made a num­ber of noted shorts and tele­vi­sion films - hasn’t got­ten an­other chance to di­rect a fea­ture film. “I’m the poster child for if you make a film that’s deeply au­then­tic, you may be benched for many, many years,” Dash, 64, said in a re­cent in­ter­view. “If you make a film that’s more pop or trendy or fits into var­i­ous tropes, peo­ple are more com­fort­able with you and your ideas. “But that’s not the rea­son we be­came film­mak­ers.”

Dash never got the sec­ond shot she de­served, but “Daugh­ters of the Dust” - widely cited as an in­spi­ra­tion to Bey­once’s “Le­mon­ade” - has only gained in es­teem over the years. For its 25th an­niver­sary, Co­hen Media Group has dig­i­tally re­stored the film. Be­gin­ning Fri­day with New York’s Film Fo­rum, the re­stored “Daugh­ters of the Dust” is head­ing back into the­aters. “It’s per­haps not as much as a shock to the sys­tem as it was for some in ‘91, ‘92 when we were see­ing a lot of African-Amer­i­can male ur­ban films,” said Dash, speak­ing by phone from At­lanta. “This was so very, very dif­fer­ent from all that.”

“Daugh­ters of the Dust,” set in 1902, is about the Gul­lah women of the Sea Is­lands off the coast of South Carolina. Their iso­la­tion from the main­land helped its peo­ple pre­serve much of their African her­itage, cul­ture and lan­guage. Dash was partly in­spired by writers like Toni Mor­ri­son, Alice Walker and Melville Jean Her­skovits, whose “The Myth of a Ne­gro Past” de­tailed the deep cul­tural roots that African-Amer­i­can slaves car­ried with them. In “Daugh­ters of the Dust,” some are pre­par­ing for the post-Civil War mi­gra­tion north. It’s a mo­ment of both loss and new be­gin­ning, ren­dered emo­tion­ally and po­et­i­cally by Dash, a Queens na­tive who grew up see­ing for­eign films at the Stu­dio Mu­seum of Har­lem.

This im­age re­leased by the Co­hen Film Col­lec­tion shows Alva Rogers as Eula Peazant, from left, Trula Hoosier as Trula and Bar­bara- O as Yel­low Mary Peazant in a scene from “Daugh­ters of the Dust.”

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