Filmmaker Julie Dash, the first African American woman to have a general theatrical release of a feature length motion picture, “Daughters of the Dust” (1991), selected for the prestigious National Film Registry. Ms. Dash is the very first African American woman included in the National Film Registry (created in 1988).
Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names 25 “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant motion pictures to the Registry. The 25 new selections for 2004 were
announced December 28th by the Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. Among the 25 films selected were William Wyler’s “Ben-Hur” (1959), Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” (1993) and Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” (1992).
Set in the legendary sea islands of the South at the turn of the century, “Daughters of the Dust” is structured in the way that an African Griot would recall and recount a family’s history. The story of the Peazant family is
recalled, remembered and recollected in a manner that evokes the African American oral tradition. The film follows a Gullah family on the eve of its migration to
the North. A family led by a remarkable group of African American women, who are carriers of ancient African traditions and beliefs, the extended family readies itself to leave behind friends, loved ones and an entire insulated way of life. This richly costumed drama, structured in tableaux to mirror the art and icons of its ancient African past, is a testimony to the secret celebrations and packed-away sorrows of African American women. The story unfolds over the course of a family picnic, a last supper. Along the way, the film saturates us with impressionistic colors, African symbolism, Gullah rituals, cooking, dialect and the sound of field cries, all expressing the complex resonance’s of the Gullah lifestyle. “Daughters of the Dust” focuses on a group of women who are the carriers of traditions and beliefs that are firmly linked to an African
heritage. The Peazants are the descendants of African captives who worked the indigo, rice and cotton plantations during slavery; these unique African Americans speak a distinct language called “Gullah” or “Geechee.” The Peazant women carry in their heads and pockets, scraps of memories–bits and pieces of family memorabilia left by their earliest remembered ancestors. Among those memories are recollections of a group of Ibo (Egbo) captives who, refusing to live in slavery walked on water to get back to Africa.
The Newark Black Film Festival has chosen Daughters as the Film of The Century while the British Film Institute’s Sight and Sound Magazine chose the soundtrack as one of the best in the past 25 years. It also received the Best Cinematography award at the Sundance Film Festival in 1991.
Best known for “Daughters of the Dust” Julie Dash’s other work includes: the NAACP Image Award winning CBS Network Television Movie, “The Rosa Parks Story” the winner of The Family Television Award, The New York Christopher Award,
and Angela Bassett received an Emmy Nomination for her performance as “Rosa Parks.” For the 55th Annual Directors Guild Awards, Julie Dash was nominated for her Outstanding Directorial Achievement on “The Rosa Parks Story,” and she
became the first African American woman nominated in the category of Primetime Movies Made for Television at The Directors Guild of America.. Her long form, dramatic narrative films include: “Love Song,” an MTV original feature starring R&B singers Monica, Tyress and TLC’s Chili; “Incognito,” a romantic thriller staring Richard T. Jones, Vanessa Williams, Phil Morris, Ron Glass with Rodger
Guenveur Smith; and the ENCORE/StarZ3 “Funny Valentines” starring Alfre Woodard, Loretta Devine and C.C.H. Pounder. She wrote and directed an episode of “Women” for ShowTime Cable Network, as well as “Sax Cantor Riff”, HBO’s “Subway
Stories” for Producers Jonathan Demme and Rosie Perez.
The 25 films selected this year to join the Library of Congress’ National
Film Registry, and the year in which they premiered:
* “Ben Hur” (1959)
* “The Blue Bird” (1918)
* “A Bronx Morning” (1931)
* “Clash of the Wolves” (1925)
* “The Court Jester” (1956)
* “D.O.A.” (1950)
* “Daughters of the Dust” (1991)
* “Duck and Cover” (1951)
* “Empire” (1964)
* “Enter the Dragon” (1973)
* “Eraserhead” (1978)
* “Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers” (1980)
* “Going My Way” (1944)
* “Jailhouse Rock” (1957)
* “Kannapolis, NC” (1941)
* “Lady Helen’s Escapade” (1909)
* “The Nutty Professor” (1963)
* “OffOn” (1968)
* “Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor” (1936)
* “Pups is Pups (Our Gang)” (1930)
* “Schindler’s List” (1993)
* “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (1954)
* “Swing Time” (1936)
* “There It Is” (1928)
* “Unforgiven” (1992)