Daughters of the Dust

Director: Julie Dash
Screenwriters: Julie Dash

Institute History


Daugters of the Dust is a drama about the struggle between tradition and progress. Set in the early 1900s, it is the story of the Pazants on the eve of the family's migration from their Sea Island home to the mainland, leaving their land and legacy behind. Nana Pazant, the eighty-eight-year-old matriarch of the family, fights to keep the family she raised together on the island to maintain the traditions handed down by her African ancestors. Eula, her granddaughter, is pregnant with the baby of a man whom her husband believes raped her. Haagar Pazant would like to throw off the traditions of the past for the opportunitites of the future which await her and her family in the North. She wishes to establish herself as the family matriarch of the New World. Cousin Yellow Mary has returned from Cuba "ruint." but on this eve of departure, she comes to reclaim her family place.

Daughters of the Dust is the first dramatic feature film to explore the traditions of the Gullah, the descendants of African slaves who once worked the indigo, rice and cotton plantations and later inhabited the many islands dotting the South Carolina and Georgia coastlines. These African Americans speak with a distinct accent known as "Gullah" or "Geechee." Julie Dash has fashioned a dense drama about tradition and family, rich in cultural artifacts. Ms. Dash, herself a descendant of the Gullah, drew heavily from their oral traditions and extensively researched her ancestors for five years with the assistance of Geechee scholar Margaret Washington Creel. Thus, the film represents a historical document. The superb acting ensemble, all known for their work in other independent features, speak in the thick native accent, and the men communicate with complex Gullah hand signals. Daughters of the Dust is the work of an accomplished director who enlivens her research with expressive cinematic nuances. Slow motion, striking color, voice-overs, dreams and flashbacks enrich the drama, lending it a lyrical quality that is as unorthodox as the story.

— Alberto Garcia

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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