Daughters of the Dust
Director: Julie Dash
Writer: Julie Dash
Cast: Cora Lee Day, Alva Rogers, Barbarao, Trula Hoosier, Umar Abdurrahamn, Adisa Anderson, Kaycee Moore, Bahni Turpin, Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Tommy Redmond Hicks, Cornell Royal, M. Cochise Anderson
Seen on: 28.11.2017
It is the beginning of the 20th century and the still rather new abolishment of slavery tempts the Peazant family to leave the islands they have been living on and to attempt their luck on the USAmerican mainland. The islands and their isolation gave them the possibility to preserve some of their African ancestral traditions – the Gullah culture. So not everybody is willing to actually leave, while others can hardly wait. In any case, it’s time to make decisions.
Daughters of the Dust is an in the best sense unusual film in many ways. It is absolutely stunning in so many ways. It’s a film you should definitely watch – and then re-watch.
The first thing that struck me about Daughters of the Dust are the lush visuals. Every frame is fantastic and the entire film is suffused with an atmosphere that feels magically dreamlike. It’s a film to get lost in – if you let yourself. The landscapes, the costumes, the hair styles – it’s simply evocative.
Another beautiful thing about the film is how it tells its story. The narrative feels almost impressionistic and doesn’t progress in a straight line. It also doesn’t spell out a lot, leaving you to draw your own conclusions. The characters all come with their own motivations – and they are beautifully portrayed by the cast – but not all motivations were entirely clear at the first look – they neede some more thinking.
The film tackles slavery, but in a very different way from what we usually get – showing none of the direct violence and all of the long-lasting consequences. Slavery has been abolished and the situation on the island has always been a little different from the mainland, and yet the trauma of slavery still reverberates through the family and the community.
Dash captures the intricacies of the setting simply beautifully and creates a masterpiece of a film that everybody should see. I have since re-watched it and I loved it even more the second time.
PS: this was the first film by a black woman to get a regular cinematic release. In 1991. It’s ridiculous. It took Dash almost 10 years to make another feature film. That may be even worse.