On Netflix Now: We’re Watching ‘Daughters of the Dust’

Daughters of the Dust is a 1991 drama about the Gullah culture on sea islands off the east coast of the United states where African folk-ways were maintained well into the 20th Century.

It’s not often you’ll come across a movie like Julie Dash‘s Daughters of the Dust, a visually stunning and narratively non-linear story, telling of three generations of Gullah women preparing to leave Saint Helena Island off the coast of North Carolina, heading to the mainland. Set in 1902, it is narrated by ‘The Unborn Child’, the future daughter of Eula (Alva Rogers) and Eli (Adisa Anderson), she revealing a past, present, and future for these people, including triumphs and great tragedy that have impact on her voice. Taking us from the slave trade to beyond, we see a people form a way of life and language in a land isolated from the rest of the world, poignantly and passionately told like generational history passed down by word. With this film, Dash became the first African American female director to have a film gain a theatrical release. It’s an unusual and often moving journey well worth watching. 

THE LAST WORD

It’s a truly remarkably beautiful movie, visually and narratively, as we witness great traditions and customs, coming to know people torn from one world and making home another.

It is told in the language of the people, creolized from West Africa, and at times might be hard to understand, but not often, and the purposeful pace keeps this a gentle, though emotional journey.

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