Daughters of the Dust. 1991. USA. Directed by Julie Dash. With Alva Rogers, Bahni Turpin, Barbara-O, Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Cora Lee Day, Tony King, Trula Hoosier. 112 min.
The Gullahs, descendants of enslaved Africans who inhabit the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia, have maintained a distinct culture and way of life due in part to their geographical isolation. In 1902, a Gullah family, led by their clan matriarch, gathers together before most of them migrate to the mainland. This multigenerational family, made up mostly of women, contemplates their past and negotiates their future. Abandoning traditional storytelling, Julie Dash relies on fragmented details, immersing us in their language, tradition, beliefs, and history. The imagery and tempo—unfamiliar, impressionistic, and elusive—give rise to an otherworldliness, a radically fresh way to depict black womanhood. Almost three decades later, this debut feature remains a stunning, singular work of art.