Join director-screenwriter Julie Dash and film editor Amy Carey Linton for a conversation about "Daughters of the Dust" at the 3rd Annual Albany Film Festival on Saturday, April 1.
7 p.m. Friday, February 10, 2023
Page Hall, UAlbany Downtown Campus
135 Western Avenue, Albany NY 12203
Free parking. Free and open to the public.
(United States, 1991, 113 minutes, color, Rated PG) Directed by Julie Dash. Starring Cora Lee Day, Alva Rogers, Barbara-O.
Named one of “The Greatest Films of All Time” by the 2022 Sight and Sound Critics' poll of major critics—which is conducted only once each decade — "Daughters of the Dust" tells the story of three generations of Gullah women on the island of St. Helena, off the coast of South Carolina.
The Gullah are an African American group who succeeded in preserving much of their African cultural and linguistic heritage in isolation from plantation society on the mainland. Illustrative of the lack of access experienced by Black filmmakers, this 1991 film was the very first feature directed by an African American woman to be distributed theatrically in the United States.
"Daughters of the Dust"
Praise for "Daughters of the Dust"
The New York Times lauded the film's languid pace and "spellbinding visual beauty" while noting that its unconventional narrative structure made the characters in relation to the story at times difficult to follow. Critic Stephen Holden said the individual stories in the film formed a "broad weave in which the fabric of daily life, from food preparation to ritualized remembrance, is ultimately more significant than any of the psychological conflicts that surface." He hailed Dash as a "strikingly original film maker."
Roger Ebert called the film a tone-poem and highlighted the screenplay's Gullah dialect: "The fact that some of the dialogue is deliberately difficult is not frustrating, but comforting; we relax like children at a family picnic, not understanding everything, but feeling at home with the expression of it."
Upon its 2016 re-release, The Village Voice review commended the film's "stunning motifs and tableaux, the iconography seemingly sourced from dreams as much as from history and folklore." The Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw called the film "mysterious, fabular and sometimes dreamlike," comparing it to Chekhov or a performance of Shakespeare's "Tempest." The film holds a 94% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The site's consensus reads: "'Daughters of the Dust' addresses its weighty themes with lovely visuals and a light, poetic touch, offering an original, absorbing look at a largely unexplored corner of American culture."