Daughters of the Dust

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4 thoughts on “Daughters of the Dust

  1. Kyle Sittig

    In the interview with Julie Dash that was posted to the course blog, she describes the way foreign films provide a more active viewing experience, while Hollywood films lull you to sleep. This is how she wants the audience to engage her work. Dash continues, by describing her first viewing of Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, which was an unforgettable experience. I think it is an interesting approach to look at independent black cinema the same way we would look at a foreign film. Middle of Nowhere – and from the sound of it – Daughters of the Dust deal with the day-to-day lives of their protagonists, instead of focusing on action and conflict (at least from the traditional “Hollywood” perspective of action and conflict). I remember my first time watching Bergman’s Winter Light in High-school, and thinking it was boring. I wondered why the emotional aspect of the film seemed so subdued. It wasn’t until I rewatched it later that I connected with it. The images from that film, as well as other foreign films, are the ones I find staying with me. Of course, this is not to say that these films are shot drastically better than American films. But, by simply being exposed to an unconventional method of story-telling, the viewer is sort of jolted to attention. This is the “rupture” Dash describes. Telling the truth about any group of people isn’t done through a traditional Hollywood plot structure. The truth of existence for most people emerges from their daily routines.
    The Stephen Holden article from the course blog describes how each character represents a different view of their heritage. It sounds like this becomes mostly a spiritual conflict. I admire how simple this method of storytelling is. It really shows the divide between films that are purely spectacle and films that convey ideas (not that some don’t do both). I think this is why I can’t be angry that films like Django Unchained (for relevance sake), are more popular than films like The Middle of Nowhere. Spectacle, mythology, and escape will always sell better than subtlety. Subtlety, however, usually wins out in the long run, when it comes to a film’s greatness.

    “you wanted it to feel like it was a foreign film” – Mark Anthony Neal
    “I never forgot it and it ruptured my reality” (of Potemkin) – Julie Dash
    “Daughters of the Dust shows food and the people preparing it in a very straightforward manner. At the same time, however, the emotional intensity and the poetry of the images makes us reflect on how the culinary traditions represented in the movie survived the Middle Passage, the horrors of the slaves’ exploitation in the rice and indigo plantations, the crisis of the Civil War, and the confusion of the Reconstruction.” – Fabio Parasecoli
    “They are not culturally prepared to watch a movie like this” (about Daughters of the Dust) – Mark Anthony Neal

    1. “The question of who controls the images and representations of people of color is still urgent, and not only in the realm of food.” – Fabio Parasecoli. Who is allowed to represent people of color? Can a non-black person ever make a “black” film?
    2. How close to an experience do you have to be to make a film about it?
    3. Is it fair to compare “popcorn” films to “serious” films?
    4. Is the obscurity of films like Daughters of the Dust a symptom of the problems with society or the problems in the film industry? In other words, would these films do well if Hollywood got behind them? Could it be looked at more as a symptom of Hollywood’s hatred of anything new? Would these films do better during the New Hollywood era, which was not so dominated by spectacle films?

  2. Chelsy Kessler
    Daughters of the Dust
    The articles expressed that the movie showed a small culture off the coast of Georgia who both embraced being American and being African. I think that is a struggle for many immigrants now and throughout American history, that there is always the extremes of either changing and making this all new “American” version of themselves or they bring their culture and there old life to America, for example in New York at the turn of the century with ethnic blocks. I think this small culture that the movie revolves around is very similar in the sense that they bring Africa and their African roots to this small island. However the daughters leave to become a part of mainland wanting to be on their own and experience America and stray from their American roots showing a new definition of African American. I think that showing these women and this culture and defying the stereotypes of slavery, African roots, food etc. Julie Dash shows the humanity of these women, but also of African Americans and Africa. I think that we think of Africa and come to uncivilized, voodoo, savage culture, when in reality they are just as human as white man in America. I think with the out casting of Yellow Mary because she is a prostitute, is the same reaction that would happen in an upper class white society also. I think it gives an comparison that different backgrounds, different history and culture doesn’t mean different species. We just have different experiences not ruled by the color of our skin, but by where we grew up and the culture we were brought up in.
    1. Why does the problem change when the cultural background of the person changes?
    2. The constitution was written saying all men were created equal, but really meant only white men. When it comes to religion why is it okay for white men to experience different religions, but if a black person were to believe in something other than Christianity it was consider voodoo or they were a heathen, like Nunu in Sankofa?
    3. How did white supremacy pressure African Americans to abandon their African heritage and adapt to the white man definition of American or in today’s society of being black?
    “The stories, instead of being related in bite-size dramatic chunks, gradually emerge out of a broad weave in which the fabric of daily life, from food preparation to ritualized remembrance, is ultimately more significant than any of the psychological conflicts that surface.” –Stephen Holden
    “The Gullah food customs are also starkly different from those now known as “soul food,” a wide definition that includes various African-American food ways but that is also supposed to fully represent them all.” – Fabio Parasecoli
    “With Daughters of the Dust, Julie Dash managed to highlight the diversity within the African-American experience. She did so by giving voice and agency to a group that had become invisible.” –Fabio Parasecoli

  3. After reading the review/film “Daughters of the Dust: The Demise Of a Tradition”, this family were slaves from West Africa whose tribe was known as the Gullahs. Because they were isolated, they got to keep their customs and rituals while living on the Sea Islands. The Gullahs know English but with a sing song way that they talked. In this movie every character represents a different view of the family heritage. One person that I thought was interesting was the grandmother named Nana who was the closest link to the African roots and practices; she also knew ritual magic. This was an African group that knew where they were from and what their roots linked to, which is very unusual for slaves. Viola was the Baptist who brings Christianity to the tribe. Haagar married into the family, and she looks down on the African heritage because she wanted to be middle class. Many people believe that middle class people do not look at race; a good example would be the Cosby show. Yellow Mary is a prostitute that has come back for the celebration of the family’s departure. Nana’s granddaughter, Eula is pregnant, and her husband Eli believes that he’s not the father because his wife was raped, but he eventually realizes that he is the father of the unborn child. The film review goes on to say that the Sea Island landscape was inhospitable to white settlement because of the heat, insects and threat of yellow fever which allowed Gullahs to be free slaves.

    1. How did Yellow Mary get her name, Yellow? (Was it her race, skin tone, or the fact that she was a prostitute?)
    2. How did Eli know that the daughter was his, even though the daughter was not born yet?
    3. Why did the tribe decide to leave the Island? (was it lack of resources, food, shelter?)

    More than any other group of Americans descended from West Africans, the Gullahs, through their isolation, were able to maintain African customs and Rituals.
    Family heritage that, once the Peazants have dispersed throughout the North, may not survive.

  4. After reading the review and watching the film of Daughter of the dust, Julie Dash describes the film to be great experiences for many viewers. Julie dash stated “Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust” is a film of spellbinding visual beauty about the Gullah people living on the Sea Islands off the South Carolina-Georgia coast at the turn of the century”(dash). Julie states plenty of times that her film was made majority to expose the wild beauty of the Gullah people. This film consists of slaves from West Africa, there tribe was best known as the Gullahs. In the movie every character that played a role symbolized a bigger meaning in the film. For instants yellow Mary was a prostitute that came back to Africa to celebrate with her family because of the departure. As Stephen Holen said in his article each character is there to represent a different view of their heritage. I think Julie Dash and Stephen Holen whole purpose of making this film was to convey more of meaning just West African traveling.

    “never forgot it and it ruptured my reality” (of Potemkin) – Julie Dash
    “More than any other group of Americans descended from West Africans, the Gullahs, through their isolation, were able to maintain African customs and Rituals” (Holen).-Stephen Holen
    Why did the tribes want to leave that place in the first place?
    What inspired Julie dash to make this film?
    How come the Gullah tribe was free at the time and the others wasn’t?

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