Reel Classic | Daughters of the Dust


Twenty-five years ago, one of the most beautiful movies we’ve ever seen, Julie Dash’s indie classic, Daughters of the Dust was released. As this visually stunning film gears up for its anniversary re-release, a new poster for the film has been released.

Dash’s gorgeous film is set in 1902 among the members of the Peazant family, Gullah who live at Ibo Landing on St. Simons Island, Georgia. Their ancestors were brought there as enslaved people centuries ago, and the islanders developed a language and culture that was creolized from West Africans, of Ibo, Yoruba, Kikongo, Mende, and Twi origin.

Developed in their relative isolation of large plantations on the islands, the enslaved peoples’ unique culture and language have endured in areas of the Low Country. The Peazant family, including a couple of contrasting daughters who have come back for a last dinner on the island, is meeting before most leave for the North. The film is narrated by the Unborn Child, and is influenced by accounts of ancestors, represented especially by Nana Peazant, the matriarch. She says, “We are two people in one body. The last of the old and the first of the new.” Lyrical visual images convey much of the story. The dialogue is in Gullah creole.

Dash conveyed her excitement over the re-release of her beautiful masterwork with’s Wilson Morales. “I’m excited about the restoration of Daughters of the Dust being made available to the public,” said Dash. “And delighted to have the opportunity to engage with a new generation of people who have never seen the film.”

Daughters of the Dust is a post-slavery narrative about cultural memory, notions of home and belonging, and conflicts of Black female identity, a lost cultural connector between Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep and Beyonce’s Lemonade.

The film features Cora Lee Day, Alva Rogers, Barbara-O, Trula Hoosier, Vertamae Grosvenor, and Kaycee Moore. It was filmed on Saint Helena Island in South Carolina. In 2004, Daughters of the Dust was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Dash has published two books related to the film: Daughters of the Dust: The Making of an African-American Woman’s Film (1992), which includes the screenplay; and Daughters of the Dust: A Novel (1997), set 20 years after the events in the film.

The 25th Anniversary edition of Daughters of the Dust will return to the big screen in a sparkling new 2k restoration on November 18. It will mark the film’s 25th anniversary.

Check out the updated trailer, the original trailer, as well as the updated poster from the film, below: