Tales of the future and the past, of traditions and progress, have long fascinated film-makers. In America, much of Afro-Caribbean culture and history stems from slavery. Cinema has focussed mainly on this period. However, there’s so much more which often gets left uncovered. African traditions were carried by boat to the New World. In isolated places, they often retained their hold. In Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust, she charts the voyage from the past to the future.
Around the turn of the 20th century, the Peazant family, Gullah islanders, reside off the South Carolina/Georgia coast. Living in isolation, they’ve constructed their own language and culture based on West African traditions. The ancestors of slaves, the majority of Gullahs are about to embark on a journey to the mainland, and embrace modernity. The matriarch of the family, Nana Peazant (Cora Lee Day), still abides by African and Caribbean spiritual traditions.
Daughters of the Dust is a striking visual feast. Bristling with traditional imaginary, symbolism and folklore, it has a dreamlike and lyrical quality; full of whimsy, anger and suspicion. Narration comes courtesy of the unborn child of Eli (Adisa Anderson) and Eula (Alva Rogers), conjuring up the voices of her ancestors. Daughters of the Dust looks magnificent in this new restoration. Hugely influential, it’s an integral part of American history; charting the voyage between past, present and future.
Daughter of the Dust is released on dual format DVD & Blu-Ray by the BFI on Monday 26 June.