AFI Movie Club: DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST – American Film Institute

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AFI Movie Club: DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST

DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST was directed by AFI alum Julie Dash (Class of 1974) – an influential member of the LA Rebellion movement which reinvented Black Cinema. The New York Times’ A.O. Scott called her “a true American original who dared to fill an empty space in the American imagination.” With the release of the film, Dash became the first African American woman director to receive a nationwide distribution deal. 

Movie Trivia about TODAY’S FILM

DID YOU KNOW DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST was the feature film debut for AFI alum Julie Dash? Dash directed, wrote and produced the movie. 

DID YOU KNOW Dash’s original conception was for a “short, silent film” about an African American family from the Carolina Sea Islands? Dash received a Guggenheim grant which allowed her to do significant research into the African migration through the South Carolina Low Country. She realized there was too much material for just a short film, so she combined her research with personal family stories – as well as what she described as “strange and funny” West African ritual traditions — to begin writing the script. 

DID YOU KNOW director Julie Dash shot a “sample” film to show possible investors? Two of the actors that were a part of the two-week shoot – Alva Rogers who played “Eula” and Barbara-O who played “Yellow Mary” – were committed to reprising their roles once funding was secured for the feature production. 

DID YOU KNOW that Julie Dash was able to keep her “sample” film on minimal budget by including unused film stock donated by fellow filmmakers, including director Charles Burnett? They were both pioneering members of LA Rebellion, a group of African and African American filmmakers who fought to bring the stories of people of color to the big screen. You can learn more about LA Rebellion at the UCLA Film & Television Archive 

DID YOU KNOW due to environmental restrictions, the production was unable to bring a generator to set? Director of photography A. Jaffa Fielder instead relied on natural light throughout production. He was later presented with the Excellence in Cinematography award at the Sundance Film Festival for his work. 

DID YOU KNOW according to director Julie Dash, the cast and crew were willing to film unscheduled scenes at a moment’s notice? They also persevered through mosquitoes and sandstorms. Dash said they worked as a community of artists, collaborating to create a work of art. 

DID YOU KNOW DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST was the first feature-length film by a black woman to receive national commercial release? Upon the film’s restoration and rerelease in 2016, Julie Dash was finally inducted into the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Director Ava DuVernay described Julie Dash as “the queen of it all” and noted, “she was just too early… she was ahead of her time.”  

DID YOU KNOW DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST was a source of inspiration for pop singer Beyoncé? Her 2016 collection of music videos, LEMONADE, contains marked visual allusions from Julie Dash’s film. 

DID YOU KNOW Julie Dash wrote a novel that was the sequel to the movie? It takes place 20 years after the film’s story. She also wrote an autobiographical book about her experiences as a first-time feature film director called “Daughters of the Dust: The Making of an African American Woman’s Film.” 

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.

 

The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-Who are the narrators of the film? What is their importance? 

-What parts of DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST do you think inspired Beyoncé’s music video? 

-Why is the LA Rebellion important to today’s society? 

-The film won an award for cinematography. What is notable about the way it is shot? 

-What is unique about DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST?  

-The story of the Peazant family unfolds in a non-linear timeline, shifting between their day on the beach in 1902 and their memories of the past. Why do you think director Julie Dash decided to represent their lives in this way, and what are some of the visual cues and cinematic devices used to convey this mystical passage of time? 

-DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST represents a family matriarchy in which African spiritual and cultural traditions conflict with younger generations, who have embraced Christianity. Can you describe any scenes in the movie where this contention is depicted? What imagery did you remember?  

-At the time of the film’s release, topics of slavery and “The Great Migration” had rarely been told from an African American filmmaker’s point of view. Why do you think it is important for audiences to see images created by diverse filmmakers? 

-Who are some of your other favorite black filmmakers? 

-How would you rate DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST? 

 

New to AFI Movie Club? Want to learn more?

AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience.

Learn more in our FAQ section.

 

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