Director: Cauleen Smith
Screenwriters: Salim Skil, Cauleen Smith

Institute History

  • 1999 Sundance Film Festival


“Drylongso” is an old African American term that means “ordinary,” or “just the same old thing.” Ambitious and densely packed, Cauleen Smith’s remarkable debut feature addresses the everydayness of violence and the extraordinary beauty of daily life.
Pica is a young woman growing up in Oakland, California, who feels deeply the value and vulnerability of everyone’s life but her own. At home her room is perpetually violated by her mother’s partying visitors, and her work in illegal poster distribution puts her in nightly danger of attack. At school she is unable to make any progress on her 35 mm photography project. Instead, armed with charming savvy and a Polaroid camera, Pica tirelessly documents the existence of young black men, whom she believes to be an endangered species. Along the way, she snaps a photo of Tobi, a young black woman, disguised as a man, who is running from a violent boyfriend. Tobi discovers that her assumed gender gives her new strength and freedom of movement around the city. Fate, however, does not spare Pica’s boyfriend, Malik, and his death inspires her to turn the rampant casual violence into something transcendently beautiful through her art.
Full of irony and inspired by the lyrics and rhythms of hip-hop music, Drylongso breathes fresh air into popular notions of black culture. If black men are endangered, black women are still safer when they dress as black men. Shot on a shoestring budget, Drylongso is a filmmaking triumph which tells a story that needs to be heard.

Cauleen Smith, Director
Cauleen Smith completed several short films while studying at San Francisco State University before beginning to raise funds for her first feature, Drylongso. Thankfully the Rockefeller Foundation, American Film Festival, and National Black Programming Consortium extended their confidence to her, based on her early short films, Drylongsoand Chronicles of a Lying Spirit by Kelly Gabron.

— Shari Frilot

Screening Details

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