Thursday, September 6, 2012
|7:00 p.m.||Daughters of the Dust|
Julie Dash (U.S., 1991)
Read Zeinabu irene Davis’s 1991 interview with Julie Dash in Wide Angle from our Cinefiles collection.
Julie Dash’s 1991 masterpiece was her first feature, and the first American feature directed by an African American woman to receive a general theatrical release. Abounding with surprise, the film transports us to a little-known setting for a universal tale. The year is 1902, in the home of several Gullah people, descendants of African captives who escaped the slave trade to live on islands off the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia. Here, members of the Peazant family are on the verge of a planned migration to the U.S. mainland, where American modernity seems to offer a good life. However, family members clash over the meaning of this move. Viola views the crossing as a step out of bankrupt African superstitions. Scandal-tinged “Yellow Mary” fears losing the touchstone of home. Nana Peazant, the aged matriarch, frets over the possibility of broken family ties and lost traditions. Eulah fears that the family’s plan represents a futile flight from intractable legacies of pain. Dash constructs their home as a rarefied world, possibly soon a “paradise lost,” through a masterful interplay of mise-en-scène, symbolic markers, and magical realist gestures.
• Written by Dash. Photographed by A. Jaffa Fielder. With Cora Lee Day, Alva Rogers, Barbara-O (Barbara O. Jones), Cheryl Lynn Bruce. (112 mins, Color, 35mm, Permission Kino Lorber)
The Diary of an African Nun
(Julie Dash, U.S., 1977)
A nun in Uganda weighs the emptiness she finds in her supposed union with Christ. Adapted from a short story by Alice Walker, the film was a deliberate first move by its director toward narrative filmmaking, though its graphic simplicity and pantomimed performance by Barbara O. Jones give it an intensity that anticipates Dash’s work on Daughters of the Dust. Shannon Kelley (15 mins, B&W, DigiBeta transfer from 16mm, Preservation funded in part with a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation)
Total running time: 127 mins