Languid look at the Gullah culture of the sea islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia where African folk-ways were maintained well into the 20th Century and was one of the last ...
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Languid look at the Gullah culture of the sea islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia where African folk-ways were maintained well into the 20th Century and was one of the last bastions of these mores in America. Set in 1902.Written by
John Sacksteder <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Won best cinematography when it premiered at Sundance. See more »
I am the first and the last. I am the honored one and the scorned one. I am the whore and the holy one. I am the wife and the virgin. I am the barren one and many are my daughters. I am the silence that you can not understand. I am the utterance of my name.
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Daughters of the Dust is considered to be an artistic masterpiece. It's supposed to be the ideal feminist movie. After watching it, I am not sure why. I came into this movie with an open mind, even though all of my classmates had expressed distaste for the movie, but a lot of the things they talked about didn't bother me. For instance the significance of the bottle tree, and smashing it, the only really confusing part of the film for me was the fight. It wasn't clear to me if it was serious or not. The way I see it, there are two main problems in the movie. The first is the script. It is rambling, and incoherent. There is no plot structure. It just meanders around a large ensemble of characters, never really giving you a chance to know anyone well, with the possible exception of Nana. Not only does the screenplay ramble, but it is extremely preachy. This is a movie, not a sermon. If you want to get your point across, do it subtly, don't shove it down our throats repeatedly. The worst part of the script is the end. Everything just falls apart. People scream wildly in acting reminiscent of the over exaggerating silent era. The final speech on the beach, good lord; I couldn't understand the actress, but what I could understand was terrible. Way to work in that title in the script. Talk about a lame cliché! This film is reminiscent of an extremely over indulgent film students work that magically got funding for saying the magic words 'African' and 'Feminist' that managed to get into the purses of wealthy backers. The bottom line is, it doesn't matter how culturally or politically valid a movie may be, it can still be a terrible movie, and this is indeed a bore.
However I want to take some time here to talk about the argument that this movie is bad because it is afro-centric. That because of its many obscure references to thing that the vast majority of white (and probably a large percentage of black) viewers don't understand. This does not condemn the movie in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, the movie is still bad, but not for these reasons. I think part of the reason the afro-centrism of this movie is targeted is because it's a bad movie overall and people blame this for it. But really, it would be a bad movie with or without the afro-centric elements. There are parts in every movie that people won't understand. A lot of times they are more subtle than in this movie. I think it is wrong to damn a movie for it's obscure references. Even if you don't have any background on this, the movie gives you enough and gets its points across well enough that you don't need one; you can understand the movie and its references. This is a double edged sword however. It may not damn the movie, but it doesn't canonize it either. I've read lots of reviews focusing on how important the movie is because it focuses on an almost forgotten part of African heritage or because of it's feminist views. I found this piece of culture and history extremely interesting, it reminded me of Last of the Mohicans. But no matter how interesting a subject matter, it can still be turned to crap, and Julie Dash has really ruined a good subject matter here.
Just a thought as I reflect on the movie, but maybe the biggest problem is that there is just too much? Too many characters, too many plot points, etc etc etc. It might have worked in another medium that wasn't constrained to this length. It's just too rushed and compact and every which way but loose the way it is. Never settling on anything.
Before I end this, I want to make my case for this movie. The case of how it is nothing but an art house version of How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Both film have their main characters as strong black mothers or grandmothers. Both films focus on black family dynamics. Both films focus on the differences between northern life in America and southern life on the islands. Both films focus on black culture and the many different facets of it. Both films have the exact same scene of a woman running on a beach. Both films are about maintaining a black (or African) identity in a white European world. Both films have dance scenes with large groups of blacks dancing to African/African-American music. Both films have a black relative abandoning her black relatives to be with a white (or Native American) man. Both films have almost entirely black casts. I could probably come up with more, but I think I made my point. To sum it up, I proclaim How Stella Got Her Groove Back to be `a film of visionary power, an unprecedented achievement in terms of world cinema and African aesthetics'. I also think that How Stella Got Her Groove Back is a much more feminist leaning film. The only focus on feminism I saw in Daughters of the Dust was the final breakdown speech on the beach where all of the sudden the men are completely ignored and it's all about the daughters. If you ever teach a class like this again, I would suggest screening these two films back to back as a lesson of how to understand hype and pretentious critics.
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