Daughters of the Dust
November 8th, 2018

Daughters of the Dust [1991]

Please join Cultivate Cinema Circle and Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center as we showcase the debut features of some of today’s modern visionary filmmakers with a year-long series dubbed Women Direct. Our last selection is Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust [1991] with an introduction by artist / poet Annette Daniels Taylor.

Event Sponsors:

Venue Information:

341 Delaware Ave, Buffalo, NY 14202

TrailerSynopsisDirector Statement/BioLinks

Courtesy of Cohen Media Group:

At the dawn of the 20th century, a multi-generational family in the Gullah community on the Sea Islands off of South Carolina – former West African slaves who adopted many of their ancestors’ Yoruba traditions – struggle to maintain their cultural heritage and folklore while contemplating a migration to the mainland, even further from their roots.

Cohen Media Group is proud to present the 25th anniversary restoration of director Julie Dash’s landmark film Daughters of the Dust. The first wide release by a black female filmmaker, Daughters of the Dust was met with wild critical acclaim and rapturous audience response when it initially opened in 1991. Casting a long legacy, Daughters of the Dust still resonates today, most recently as a major in influence on Beyonce’s video album Lemonade. Restored (in conjunction with UCLA) for the first time with proper color grading overseen by cinematographer AJ Jafa, audiences will finally see the film exactly as Julie Dash intended.


  • Sundance Film Festival – 1991 – Winner: Cinematography Award (Dramatic Competition)
  • Toronto International Film Festival – 1991
  • National Film Preservation Board – 2004 – National Film Registry

Courtesy of press kit:


DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST is the cinema of images and ideas.

Images play a major role in the complex process that shapes our identity. When images of African-American women are depicted on the screen by someone outside of our culturem it is a projection of that filmmaker’s mind — not an expression of our reality. The films that I make are from a Black aesthetic and from an African-American woman’s reality. I make the kinds of films that I’ve always wanted to see.

My films are about women at pivotal moments in their lives; enigmatic women who are juggling complex psyches; who speak to one another in fractured sentences, yet communicate completely through familiar gestures and stances; women who remind me of my old neighborhood and the women who raised me.

My approach to the writing and directing of this film has been to evoke ancient sensibilities, to challenge the conventional formats of representing Black women in the genre of historical drama.


Julie Dash was born and raised in New York City. She is an independent filmmaker who has received wide recognition for her work; Ms. Dash tours nationally and internationally with her films. Prints of her films, ILLUSIONS and FOUR WOMEN have been permanently archived at Indiana University and at Clark College in Atlanta. She is currently working on a series of films depicting Black women in the United States from the turn of the century to the year 2000 A.D.

Ms. Dash has a 1991/92 Fulbright Fellowship to London to collaborate on a screenplay with Maureen Blackwood of Sankofa. In 1989, she won a Rockefeller Intercultural Film Fellowship. In 1981, she was the recipient of a prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for her work in film. She just completed fer first feature length film, DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, for an American Playhouse theatrical release in 1992. DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST won the first prize award in cinematography, for dramatic film, at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

Her critically acclaimed short film, ILLUSIONS, has won the 1989 Jury Prize for the Best Film of The Decade, awarded by the Black Filmmaker Foundation. ILLUSIONS was nominated for a 1988 Cable ACE Award in Art Direction, and was the season opener of “Likely Stories,” The Learning Channel’s new series showcasing fictional works by independent filmmakers. In 1985, she was a recipient of the Black American Cinema Society award for ILLUSIONS.

In 1986, she relocated to Atlanta, Georgia from Los Angeles. Ms. Dash had been selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to work as a directing apprentice, in Atlanta, on “Leader Of The Band”. Later, she began working with the Atlanta-based National Black Women’s Health Project on a six-part media presentation on adolescent pregnancy.

In 1985, 1983, and 1981, she was the recipient of an Individual Artist Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1981, she was awarded an Independent Filmmaker’s Grant from the American Film Institute (AFI).

From 1978 to 1980, Ms. Dash worked for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), in Los Angeles, as a member of the Classifications and Rating Administration. One of six voting board members, she made daily decisions that vitally affected the fortunes of more than 350 movies made each of those years; she screened all film for distribution in the United States to apply a G, PG, R or X rating. On several occasions during her three-year tenure with the Ratings board, she travelled to Pinewood Studios in London on special assignment screenings.

On two of these MPAA European assignments, Ms. Dash was able to attend and participate in the Cannes International Film Festival in France. At the 1980 festival, she co-sponsored a screening of short films by Black Americans in the Marche du Cinema. This screening led directly to the historic retrospective of Afro-American cinema held in October 1980 at FNAC in Paris at the Forum Les Halles.

In February of 1982, she travelled with a delegation of Black American independent filmmakers to attend a film festival sponsored by the National Film Theater of London and the British Commonwealth Institute. This festival occasioned the historical meeting of Black American independent filmmakers with their British counterparts.

In March of 1982, Ms. Dash, along with two other participants from the British tour, was invited to attend the Festival Against Racism in Amiens, France.

During the summer of 1983, two of her films toured throughout forty African countries in the Black Filmmaker Foundation’s “American Films: A Touring Exhibition”. This tour marked the first time that an African audience was exposed to the works of Black American independent filmmakers.

Julie began studying film production in 1969, at the Studio Museum of Harlem, in New York. Later as an undergraduate at The City College of New York, she majored in psychology until she was accepted into the film studies program at The Leonard Davis Center for the Performing Arts, in the David Picker Film Institute. Before graduation, she wrote and produced a promotional documentary for the New York Urban Coalition, WORKING MODELS OF SUCCESS (1974).

With a B.A. in Film Production, Ms. Dash relocated to Los Angeles to attend the Center for Advanced Film Studies at the American Film Institute. At AFI, she studied under several distinguished filmmakers, including William Friedkin, Jan Kadar, and Slavko Vorkapich.

Influenced by Vorkapich’s lectures on Kinesthetic responses in cinema, she conceived and directed FOUR WOMEN (1978), an experimental dance film that received a Gold Medal for Women In Film at the 1978 Miami International Film Festival. During her two-year fellowship at AFI, she completed ENEMY OF THE SUN, a feature length screenplay.

Ms. Dash directed DIARY OF AN AFRICAN NUN (1977), as a graduate film student at the University of California, Los Angeles. DIARY OF AN AFRICAN NUN, an adpatation of a short story written by Alice Walker, was screened at the Los Angeles Film Exposition (FLIMEX) and gained her a Director’s Guild Award for a student film.

Her most publicized and critically examined work, ILLUSIONS (1983), a drama set in 1942, completes the first segment of her series about Black women in the United States. Clyde Taylor writes in Freedomways magazine, “Black independents (film) have passed through several conceptual periods in which one doctrine or style was dominant now they seem to be moving towards greater diversity. An important harbinger of this mellowing out is Julie Dash’s remarkable ILLUSIONS, which, like recent developments in architecture and jazz, is post-modernist in its historical eclecticism. Dash’s refreshing challenge is to assume that her audiences can think and bring to their viewing of her work some knowledge of cinema. Set in a Hollywood studio during World War II, when commercial film production was at its most propagandistic, ILLUSIONS plays inventively on themes of cultural, sexual, and racial domination. While its touch is light and entertaining, it offers the most searing revelation in any medium of the expropriation of Black popular culture by the U.S. mass culture industry …”.


  • Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl (2017)
  • The Rosa Parks Story (2002)
  • Love Song (2000)
  • Incognito (1999)
  • Funny Valentines (1999)
  • Daughters of the Dust (1991)
  • Working Models of Success (1973)

Here is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:

  • 10/24/18 – “Julie Dash Made a Movie. Then Hollywood Shut Her Out.” Cara Buckley, New York Times – link
  • 11/7/18 – “Film can be that balm of Gilead. Film can be that prescription for many ills of the world…You don’t need to fight wars anymore; just create a series of films that move & motivate & resonate with people & you could change a situation” – Julie Dash, Vogue – link

Leave a Reply