Daughters of the Dust, USA 1992. Directed by Julie Dash.
Winner of 1991 Sundance prize. The first film made by an African-American female director to
be nationally distributed in the US.
Unlike the other films we've watched, this one does not claim to be based on a 'true story'. The
setting, though, the South Carolina Sea Islands, is real.
The action takes place in 1902, 40 years after slavery ended. The central character, the elderly
matriarch Nana, was born a slave. The story (which is told in non-linear mode), revolves
around the conflict between the desire to preserve the isolated culture of the islands, and the
younger people's decision to move north.
'I found out about African griots and the way they would recount a family's history over a period
of days, perhaps even a week's length of time and how the stories would expand outward and
then come back inward and that yes, that was a viable way of telling a story, as opposed to
sticking to the male Western narrative, which coems from the tall tale or the book. With
Daughters of the Dust, I decided I was not going to stay with the usual approach of Western
narrative. Instead, my narrative structure is based on the way an African griot would recount a
story's history, would recount a tale based on African deities, West African deities like Ogun,
Julie Dash, interview with Houston Baker, in Transition 57 (1992) (available on JSTOR)
General Questions: ask these about all the films we will watch:
What aspects of slavery does the film focus on? Why?
How does the film understand and represent ‘race’?
How would you characterize the language used in the film? What is the significance of and
intention behind the use of this form of language?
Why does the film focus on women? What is the role of men in the film?
Review in the Washington Post:
Joel R. Brouwer, "Repositioning: Center and Margin in Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust"
African American Review, 29, 1 (1995):pp. 5-16. (Available on JSTOR.)
Julie Dash, interview with Houston Baker, Transition 57 (1992). (available on JSTOR)