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Daughters of the Dust [DVD] [1991] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Language: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • ASIN: 6305729212
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 344,235 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I saw this film Daughters of the Dust at the Toronto Film Festival when it first came out. I also had the honour, at that time, of interviewing the filmmaker Julie Dash. The film is fantastic and inspired me to make a pilgrimage, with friends to the Gullah Islands. Definitely worth seeing. One of the best films I've seen, mostly because until then most films featuring black people in the US were blaxpoitation films, or blaxploitation wannabees. It felt good to see something directed by a woman, and that had more in common with the imagery I found in the writing of people like Gloria Naylor, Toni Morrison and Toni Cade Bambara, to name only a few. Well done, Miss Dash!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars 104 reviews
120 of 123 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Feast For the Eyes, Ears, And Heart 27 Mar. 2001
By Angela D. Douglas - Published on
Verified Purchase
In the opening of her film, Daughters of the Dust, Julie Dash alerts the viewer that this is no ordinary African American story. Conversely, this is an American history lesson with African origins. A small informative note at the start of the film puts the entire movie in context. Without this explanatory foreword, many viewers would probably find the film hard to understand. Though the movie tells the story of the Peazant family's migration from the sea islands of the South, the story also gives a panoramic view of the Gullah culture at-large. Because the islands are isolated from the mainland states, the Gullah retain a distinct African ethnicity and culture. Ironically, the Peazants want to rid themselves of the old ways and heritage, thus beginning an exodus from the islands to the mainland. Taking place in 1902, just fifty years after the end of slavery, Daughter of the Dust explores the Peazant's struggle for survival and escape from poverty. The movie opens on the eve of the family's great migration to the mainland. A family celebration and farewell-of-sorts take place on the beach. The Peazants even hire a photographer to document this momentous occasion. As the movie progresses, the complexity of the family's departure from the island emerges. Difference and changing values mire the pending migration with conflict and strife. As the family prepares to leave, in search of a new life and better future, the film reveals the richness of the Gullah heritage. Narrations of "the unborn child" of Eli and Eula Peazant offer glimpses into problems the family has faced since their existence on the island. As explained by matriarch Nana Peazant, the Gullah are like "two people in one body." Though most Peazants were born in the Americas, their African heritage is forever evident. The internal conflicts of this duality haunt the family as they become ensnarled in battle, only to war against themselves. Through old African customs and rituals, such as glass bottle trees, salt water baths, and herb potions, Nana wants to ensure that the family stays together. Moreover, Nana, "the last of the old," has chosen to stay on the island. She celebrates everything that makes her who she is: the ugly and the good. She knows slavery and she knows freedom. Her life revolves around the continuation and strengthening of the Peazant family. Her rituals are often unappreciated and looked upon with scorn by other family members. Some family members are unwilling to grasp Nana's teachings and wisdom. They want to escape the island, to run away from the Gullah way of life. However, they cannot run from themselves. Just as Nana proclaims, they will always live a double life, no matter where they go. The trip to the mainland certainly cannot rid their indigo stained hands of its blue-blackish tint. Nor can the northern journey erase the memories of whom or what they are leaving. Unbeknownst to the younger Peazants, the duality, the recollections and remembrances, and the old way and traditions are gifts from their ancestors. Sadly, few are able to accept these gifts or comprehend their importance. Through authentic Gullah dialect, vivid imagery and colorful characters, Dash reveals the uniqueness of the Gullah people. A cousin, Yellow Mary, returns from Cuba to the island, facing the scorn of her people because she is a "ruint `oman." Haggar, a bitter woman who wants nothing to do with the old Gullah ways, does not realize that she cannot rid herself of whom she is. For example, she despises the "old Africans," yet retains their ways in her speech and use of African colloquialisms. Another cousin, Viola is full of Christian religious fervor and against the heathen practices and nature-worshiping traditions of her people. Eula, who gives a heart- wrenching soliloquy at the end of the movie, bears the burden of pregnancy and rape by a white man. Eli, Eula's husband, represents the strength and future of the Peazant clan. Besides being adept at character development, Julie Dash effectively educates the viewer about African-American history. Tales of flying Africans, water-walking Ibo, Islamic religion, and slave trading are skillfully woven in small snatches throughout the film. We also see connections between African-Americans and Native Americans. The lessons learned from this film are too numerous. One must see the film more than once to appreciate all the information presented. Daughters of the Dust awakens all the senses. The beautiful cinematography transports viewers to a surreal place and time, creating a visual paradise. Each scene makes its introduction with mesmerizing African music, which aptly fits each setting. As the Gullah women prepare food for the feast, one cannot help but imagine the taste and smell of gumbo, shrimp, and crab. This movie also arouses the heart. One can easily identify and empathize with the characters' passion and sincerity. Often, the characters relay sentiments and convictions so convincingly, that it is hard to believe that the players were acting. Understanding complete passages is often difficult because of the beautiful and authentic tonality of the language. Nonetheless, the use of standard English could not have conveyed Dash's message as successfully. We should appreciate this film for its originality and courage. Stories such as these are hardly ever told. Most films neglect the eclectic nature of the African American community, usually focusing on only aspects that are familiar to the masses. Here, Julie Dash reaches beyond the boundaries that are set for African-American films. Equally as important is her ability and willingness to validate the African-American experience. She eloquently and subtly deals with difficult subjects such as slavery, self-hatred, feminism, color prejudices, and rape. Dash does not throw one viewpoint in your face. Conversely, Dash gives the viewer a front row seat into the lives of a remarkable people. We are then left to draw conclusions for ourselves. One feels liberated, proud, and honored to be allowed a window into their lives. The movie is a celebration of the African-American diaspora. The images, language, and music of Daughters of the Dustwill linger in the minds of its fortunate viewers forever.
43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A visual miracle 28 Mar. 2004
By JLind555 - Published on
Julie Dash's film "Daughters of the Dust" is a movie of such enchanting beauty as to leave you spellbound. It's the story of a Gullah family in the Sea Islands of Georgia, preparing to relocate to the mainland in 1902. The Sea Islands, as Julie Dash tells us in the companion volume written for the film, were the Ellis Islands of the transatlantic slave trade, the dropping off point and processing center for the forced immigration of untold millions of Africans. Because of this, African cultural influences are more strongly rooted here than anywhere else in the United States.

At the head of the family is Nana Peazant, a matriarch whose quiet strength has seen her through slavery to the hard days of Reconstruction and beyond. Her children and their husbands and wives have decided to seek a future in the more modern environment of the mainland. They've grown tired of the backwardness of the island and want to spread their wings. But as Nana, who resolutely determines to stay put, has foreseen, they can remove themselves from the island, but they can't remove the island from within themselves, any more than they can remove the indigo dye of the island from their hands; they are marked forever by a part of their culture that will never go away.

Along with Nana, we meet Yellow Mary, a cousin who has returned from Cuba as a fallen woman, unconsciously clinging to her roots as hard as she tries to pull away from them; Haggar, a bitter, possessive woman who attempts to hold onto her two young daughters, MyOwn and Iona ("I Own Her"), even as they attempt to break away and make their own destiny; Viola, using her hidebound Christianity as a shield to hide from her African heritage, and Eula and Eli, coping with the devastation of Eula's rape and impregnation by a white man, whose Unborn Child is the narrator of this film. There is heartbreak for Nana, watching her family depart from the home that has been theirs for generations, and for Haggar, whose daughter Iona decided to make her own destiny by eloping with her Native American lover.

Julie Dash has managed to create film so real and so evocative that it transports us right into the action; we are there on the beach, feeling the heat, smelling the gumbo cooking, and listening to the exquisite tonalities of the Gullah dialect. The acting by all the characters is excellent throughout, with special mention for standout performances by Cora Lee Day as Nana Peazant, Alva Rogers as Eula Peazant, and Barbara O. Jones as Yellow Mary; but the real star in this film is the exquisite cinematography which is unlike anything I have ever seen in any film. The movie is so visually gorgeous that one just sits and watches awestruck. An equally strong script, well acted by the cast, gives the movie a depth and meaning that makes the film worth watching over and over.

"Daughters of the Dust" is much more than a movie; it's an emotionally charged history lesson of a little known place and a little known culture. It remains inside you, a part of you, long after the final credits have ended.

Judy Lind
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A yearning that only art can convey... captured on film! 26 May 2005
By roika - Published on
Format: DVD
I saw this film no less than four times in the theater, dragged all my friends to see it, and could not wait until it was available for home viewing. This film's stories, while part and parcel of a painful episode in African-American history, are above all, HUMAN stories that should touch the heart of ALL humanity, regardless of one's ethnic origin.

I loved each and every character, and wanted to know more about them. With every viewing, I pick up on details I've not noticed before -- the mark of well-crafted storytelling and multi-dimensional, well-developed characters.

The cinematography is breath-taking, the gorgeous music is perfectly married to the images, the overall ambience always beckons me back, and the plot unfolds delicately like petals of a flower. I cannot praise this movie enough.

My two disappointments have nothing to do with the actual movie, but with the fact that subtitles were not included on the DVD release (some of the Gullah language is a barrier for some viewers, although I found the language pertinent and necessary to the production's authenticity; plus, I hate for hearing-impaired folks to miss out on a great movie). However, a book of the script and interviews with film maker Julie Dash is available for those who are curious. Secondly, to my knowledge no music soundtrack was ever made available on CD. Thankfully, the DVD has the option of playing the isolated music track, although some sound effects were not separated from the music, and there are often long silences from one music cue to the next. Hopefully in some future edition, these issues will be addressed.

In closing, I have to say that this is an important movie, a beautiful movie, a resoundingly truthful movie that touched me on so many levels - especially as it addresses the gulf of yearning that exists between so many people and their families, or between human beings in general as we move through personal changes and differences. This movie is a paean to the yearnings of the human spirit. See it!!!
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must see movie! 14 April 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Daughters of the Dust is a richly evocative and absolutely beautiful film. Julie Dash masterfully combines her ten years of reseach in the moving film about a Gullah family on the verge of migration to the north. The performances are very strong and very moving. This movie must be seen more than once to capture the full meaning, but it is well worth the time. I would also recommend reading the screenplay which offers many insights into this incredibly deep and moving film. It is revolutionary in that it lovingly portrays wonderful strong and beautiful black women and tells their story in a manner that is free of sterotypes.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'Dusting' Off a History You Don't Read About in School..... 4 April 2008
By D. Pawl - Published on
When asked what your knowledge of the history of the South encompassed what would you say? For me, it would be a brief overview of the Civil War, the Migration North for African Americans seeking a new life in the boroughs of New York and Chicago (among other places) and the Civil Rights Movement (with an emphasis on the life's work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., of course). There is so much more to this history that we don't commonly hear about in textbooks though. Specifically, the subject I am referring to is that of the Gullah, a group of African Americans who made their home in the Low Country of South Carolina and Georgia. They are also known as Geechee. They spoke their own distinctive dialect, prepared Gullah rice dishes (like red rice and okra soup), and herbal medicines based on traditional African practices.

In DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, a 1991 release directed by Julie Dash, we get a glimpse into the culture of the Gullah. I am not certain, but, I believe this may be the first and only film of its kind released in theaters to really explore them. The cinematography is beautiful and really is the highlight of this story. The colors are hypnotic and visual imagery rich. The subjects appear illuminated and have an ethereal glow.

Unfortunately, the emphasis on aesthetic beauty, here, does not carry into other aspects of the film. Scenes of the Gullah clan fighting, working, praying, performing ritual, falling in love, and reflecting on the deep wounds of ancestral pain are not presented in a linear or comprehensible way. I realize that in order to really comprehend what is going on, on a deeper level, it helps to have more of a background in the cultural practices of the Gullah. How many people truly have a grasp on this significance, though? It truly would have been wonderful if the director, Julie Dash, had been more inclusive of her audience. I almost sense that this film is a valentine to the past. We watch scenes of beautiful women walking along the shore, preaching gospel to young children, experiencing visitations from the spirit world and men struggling to make peace with themselves and their culture, in preparation to journey north, uprooting themselves from what they know. It's just a shame that the effect of the film comes across as being more of an indirect ode to a group of people more viewers ought to know about, as opposed to an insightful and enlightening work of historical fiction brought to the screen.
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