At the time of its 1991 release, American independent cinema had never seen anything like Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust. Over 25 years later, the film's poetic depiction of African American women’s history remains unique and timeless.
Set in 1902, Daughters tells a multi-generational story of the Peazant family as they prepare to leave St. Helena Island, off the coast of South Carolina, for the mainland. The journey has economic, cultural, and spiritual ramifications for its characters, who are descendants of a slave culture known as Gullah Geechee. Those who stayed on the southern Sea Islands maintained many ties to African cultures that mainland slaves lost, including religious traditions, language, and family structures. The move to the mainland promises greater economic opportunity, but a potential loss of heritage.
Dash represents the diversity of life experiences in the extended family with a narrative structure more akin to choreography than conventional storytelling. Characters walk along the beach, climb in trees, and visit sacred places while sharing fragments of conversations and memories with each other and with us. Costumed primarily in flowing white gowns, with a variety of natural hair styles, the characters re-imagine screen images of black womanhood in a way that is still revolutionary today—and was an inspiration for Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade. To watch this film is to experience history not as fact but sensation—one can almost feel the coastal wind and taste the food—and as something that lives in future generations.
Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, your ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included.