Films: Daughters of the Dust

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Daughters of the Dust

Daughters of the Dust

USA, 1991, 112 Minute Running Time
Additional Countries: United Kingdom
Genre/Subjects: African-American, Classic, Drama, Family Issues
Program: Contemporary World Cinema
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Julie Dash
Producer: Julie Dash, Arthur Jafa
Editor: Joseph Burton, Amy Carey
Screenwriter: Julie Dash
Cinematographer: Arthur Jafa
Principal Cast: Cora Lee Day, Alva Rogers, Trula Hooiser, Umar Abdurrahamn

In the history of African-American filmmaking, there has never been anything quite like writer-director Julie Dash's evocative portrait of the Peazant family—three generations of proud Gullah women who, at the turn of the 20th century, face a cultural turning point as they prepare to migrate from their home on the Sea Islands to the South Carolina mainland.

Released in 1991, the film is at once a study of family conflict—Nana, the matriarch played by Cora Lee Day, has issues with her dour sister-in-law (Kaycee Moore), and everyone looks down on the fallen woman Yellow Mary (Barbara O)—and a vivid history lesson about the Gullah. The descendants of slaves who once worked the isolated indigo, rice, and cotton plantations of the Sea Islands, they retain many of the customs and beliefs, as well as the language, of their West African ancestors. But with the move to the mainland, those traditions are certain to be lost.

The film's masterful opening scene, a sun-drenched picnic on the beach at Ibo Landing in 1902, has about it a mixed air of joy and elegy, which mood the gifted cinematographer Arthur Jafa captures in every nuance. The dazzling women in their white frocks, the seafood steaming in the pots, the small talk and the exchange of memories, introduce us to the visual poetry that carries on through the length of the film, enhanced by a musical soundtrack that captures the spirit of a people. Filmed on St. Helena Island off South Carolina and acted in Gullah patois, Daughters is, in the words of a Washington Post writer, “an African-American family heirloom, a gorgeously impressionistic history.”

Homage to Donald Krim (1946–2011) Founder of Kino International Introduced by Gary Palmucci

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