Tag Archives: Julie Dash

Note from Roger – Daughters of the Dust

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Dear Cinephiles,

Julie Dash’s DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST is one of the most important indie films.  It was the first film directed by an African American woman to receive a wide release 25 years ago.  The film is beautiful, haunting and a true work of art.  Beyonce’s groundbreaking feature length music film “Lemonade” pays homage to “Daughters of the Dust”.

Below is an article about the film from the Los Angeles Times. Come check out the 25th Restoration of this masterpiece tonight (Thursday) at 7:30pm at the Riviera Theatre.

See you at the movies!
Roger Durling

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‘Daughters of the Dust,’ Julie Dash’s 1991 triumph, makes a welcome return
By Justin Chang

“Daughters of the Dust,” Julie Dash’s magical 1991 debut feature, captures a sad, thrilling moment of transformation for a community of Gullahs, who are the descendants of African slaves who lived on the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. On an August day in 1902, several generations of the Peazant family are preparing to move to the U.S. mainland, bidding farewell to their island home and the vibrant, uniquely African-influenced culture they’ve succeeded in keeping alive.

All good period pieces achieve and sustain a sense of immersion in a different time and place. “Daughters of the Dust,” which Dash spent many years researching, producing, writing and directing, goes further than most. Its examination of a bygone way of life is so patient and evocative, so beholden to its own storytelling conventions and rhythms, that watching it is a bit like submitting to a form of time travel. You emerge from the experience feeling slightly dazed and disoriented, but also deeply and thoroughly ravished.

This is partly due to the hypnotic pull of Arthur Jafa’s cinematography (which won a prize at the Sundance Film Festival) and the atmospheric drumbeats of John Barnes’ score, which conspire to establish an enveloping, dreamlike mood at the outset. But it is also because of the strong, vividly detailed personalities of the women at the film’s center, each one representing a different voice in a timeless tug of war between tradition and modernity, assimilation and isolation.

There is the family’s octogenarian matriarch, Nana Peazant (Cora Lee Day), who is determined to remain on the island with her rituals and herbal potions to the chagrin of her embittered granddaughter-in-law, Haagar (Kaycee Moore), who looks forward to the prosperity that she hopes awaits them on the mainland.

Two other women have returned for the Peazants’ final island gathering after leaving home years ago, though their experiences could scarcely have been more different. Viola (Cheryl Lynn Bruce) has become an outspokenly devout Baptist while Yellow Mary (Barbara O.), who returns with her girlfriend (Trula Hoosier) in tow, is ostracized by her family members for being a prostitute.

One of the few who openly embraces Yellow Mary is the spirited Eula (Alva Rogers), who was raped by a white man on the mainland and may be carrying his child, to the horror of her husband, Eli (Adisa Anderson). It is Eula who becomes the film’s wrenching voice of conscience and sanity when she cries, “Let’s live our lives without living in the fold of old wounds!” — a plea that, even for ears unaccustomed to the thick, West African-inflected creole of the region, cuts to the bone.

Viola has brought a photographer (Tommy Redmond Hicks) to the island to document the occasion. He’s something of a stand-in for Dash, whose father was a Gullah, and whose film becomes its own striking act of witness. The manner of that witness — including the use of voice-over narration from the perspective of Eula’s unborn child — shows a remarkable integrity.

Rather than telling her story via clean, linear strokes and manufactured crises, Dash lingers on the sights and sounds of Sea Island life, from the unforgettable images of women on the beach in floor-length white dresses to the close-ups of fresh-cooked prawns, hard-boiled eggs and other dishes served at the Peazants’ feast. These moments are not incidental to the narrative; they are essential to it, as Dash seeks to convey the very look, feel and texture of something that is about to be lost forever.

When “Daughters of the Dust” premiered in the dramatic competition at Sundance in 1991, the field included two other major indie breakthroughs: Todd Haynes’ “Poison” (which won the grand jury prize) and Richard Linklater’s “Slacker.” That their directors have gone on to become prominent auteurs on the independent scene is an undeniable testament to their genius.

But it also speaks to the cultural and gender-based norms that kept a singular talent like Dash from the filmmaking career she deserved — in part because “Daughters of the Dust,” one of the most striking American independent movies ever made, didn’t conform to any studio executive’s ideal of what a “black” movie should look and sound like. (The year 1991 saw a mini-renaissance for African American commercial cinema, including “Boyz n the Hood,” “New Jack City,” “Jungle Fever” and “A Rage in Harlem.”)

Even still, “Daughters of the Dust” hasn’t exactly languished in obscurity. Although it struggled to find a distributor post-Sundance, it did become the first film directed by an African American woman to receive a wide theatrical release (courtesy of Kino International). Its reemergence in theaters is timely for any number of reasons, a widely spotted shout-out in Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” not least among them.

The present-day resonance of a movie about an immigrant community caught between a traumatic past and an uncertain future can largely speak for itself. But it’s especially meaningful in a year marked by a remarkable range of serious new works from black filmmakers, from Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” and Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation” to Denzel Washington’s forthcoming “Fences” — each one offering a different vision of African American families trying to rise above a deeply entrenched legacy of oppression.

As an example of how to realize that vision without compromise, “Daughters of the Dust” remains a pioneering work of art — a vibrant dispatch from our historical and cinematic past that continues to look ahead to a more hopeful future.

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(Source: sbiff.org)

AFI FEST 2016 Cinema’s Legacy Lineup

AFI FEST 2016 presented by Audi has announced its annual Cinema Legacy’s lineup. This section highlights classic movies and, this year, is comprised of nine iconic titles from film history, including Orson Welles’ masterpiece CITIZEN KANE (1941), along with films featuring the three female film trailblazers adorning this year’s festival key art: CARMEN JONES (1954), starring Dorothy Dandridge; THE HITCH-HIKER (1953), directed by Ida Lupino; and PICCADILLY (1929), starring Anna May Wong. Additionally, the Cinema’s Legacy section will present AFI Conservatory alumna Julie Dash’s (Class of 1974) groundbreaking DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST (1991).

CINEMA’S LEGACY

CARMEN JONES – Dorothy Dandridge stars in the title role that made her the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar®. DIR Otto Preminger. SCR Harry Kleiner. CAST Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Dandridge, Pearl Bailey, Olga James, Joe Adams, Brock Peters, Roy Glenn, Nick Stewart, Diahann Carroll. USA

CITIZEN KANE – Orson Welles’ classic — number one on AFI’s list of the greatest films of all time — follows the tragic life of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane. DIR Orson Welles. SCRS Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles. CAST Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Linda Winters, Agnes Moorehead, Ruth Warrick, Ray Collins, Erskine Sanford, Everett Sloane, William Alland, Paul Stewart, George Coulouris. USA

DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST – Filmmaker Julie Dash (AFI Class of 1974) weaves lush imagery and a poetic narrative in this tale of three generations of African-American slave descendants on a journey to the North. DIR Julie Dash. SCR Julie Dash. CAST Adisa Anderson, Barbara-O, Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Cora Lee Day, Geraldine Dunston, Vertamae Grosvenor, Tommy Hicks, Kaycee Moore. USA

FLIRTING WITH DISASTER – In David O. Russell’s sophomore feature, Ben Stiller, Téa Leoni and Patricia Arquette play an oddball trio careening across America. DIR David O. Russell. SCR David O. Russell. CAST Ben Stiller, Patricia Arquette, Téa Leoni, Mary Tyler Moore, George Segal, Alan Alda, Lily Tomlin, Richard Jenkins, Josh Brolin. USA

THE HITCH-HIKER – A deranged hitchhiker takes two all-American Everymen as hostages in this gripping film noir classic. DIR Ida Lupino. SCR Ida Lupino, Collier Young, Robert Joseph. CAST Edmond O’Brien, Frank Lovejoy, William Talman, José Torvay, Sam Hayes, Wendell Niles, Jean Del Val, Clark Howat. USA

IL SORPASSO – A classic road trip comedy meets the most fabulous of odd couple pairings in Dino Risi’s IL SORPASSO, considered the holy grail of commedia all’italiana. DIR Dino Risi. SCRS Dino Risi, Ettore Scola, Ruggero Maccari. CAST Vittotio Gassman, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Catherine Spaak, Claudio Gora, Luciana Angiolillo. Italy

MIFUNE, THE LAST SAMURAI – This thoughtful, elegant documentary on Japanese cinema’s greatest actor, Toshiro Mifune, is a cinephile’s dream. DIR Steven Okazaki. SCRS Steven Okazaki, Stuart Galbraith IV. FEAT Keanu Reeves, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Kyôko Kagawa, Toshio Tshuchiya. Japan

PICCADILLY – Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American movie star, is astonishing as a dishwasher promoted to the headlining act at outré London club Piccadilly. DIR Ewald André Dupont. Presented with live DJ accompaniment from Ms. 45s. SCR Arnold Bennett. CAST Gilda Gray, Anna May Wong, Jameson Thomas, King Ho-Chang, Cyril Ritchard, Charles Laughton. UK

SPEEDY – Special engagement of the silent film classic, presented with original live music accompaniment by DJ Z-Trip. The great Harold Lloyd stars in the title role as a man who hilariously tries to save the last horse-drawn streetcar in an increasingly modern New York City. DIR Ted Wilde. SCRS John Grey, Lex Neal, Howard Rogers, Jay Howe, Albert De Mond. CAST Harold Lloyd, Ann Christy, Bert Woodruff, Babe Ruth, Brooks Benedict. USA

Tickets to Cinema’s Legacy screenings will be available on AFI.com beginning November 1.

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(Source: http://www.blog.afi.com)