RAP/Clark Conference Film Series: The L.A. Rebellion—Daughters of the Dust

RAP/Clark Conference Film Series: The L.A. Rebellion—Daughters of the Dust

Thursday, October 5, 2023

6:00 PM–8:00 PM
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Daughters of the Dust (1991; 1 hour, 52 minutes; color) was Julie Dash’s first feature, and the first American feature directed by an African American woman to receive a general theatrical release. Abounding with surprise, the film transports us to a little-known setting and unfolds a universal tale. The year is 1902, in the home of several “Gullah” people, descendants of African captives who escaped the slave trade to live on islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. Here, many members of the Peazant family are on the verge of a planned migration to the United States mainland, where American modernity seems to offer a good life. A brilliant cast enacts these negotiations with exceeding depth, befitting the weight of the decision the Peazants face: to embrace the land that their ancestors fled. Dash constructs their home as a rarefied world, possibly soon a “Paradise Lost,” through a masterful interplay of mise-en-scène, symbolic markers, and magical realist gestures. Named to the National Film Registry in 2004 by the Library of Congress, Daughters of the Dust eloquently frames questions that have preoccupied many independent filmmakers of Dash’s generation: the place of family and tradition in ameliorating historical wrongs, the hope of spiritual escape from a history of trauma, and the elusive possibility of finding deliverance together.

In celebration and anticipation of the Clark’s Research and Academic Program (RAP) 2023 Conference, “The Fetish A(r)t Work: African Objects in the Making of European Art History, 1500–1900,” the Clark presents a series of films from the Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers, better known as the L.A. Rebellion film movement. Starting in the late 1960s in Los Angeles, especially in and around the University of California (UCLA) Film School, a group of Black filmmakers began exploring alternatives to the film industry, eschewing Hollywood patterns and embracing international influences, ethnographic study, and African history and mythology.


Image: Daughters of the Dust, Julie Dash, 1991