Skip to main content
Select Source:

Dash, Julie 1952(?)–

Julie Dash 1952(?)

Filmmaker

At a Glance

Focused on African American Women

Explored Gullah Culture

Daughters of the Dust Reached the Big Screen

Selected writings

Sources

Despite a renaissance in black filmmaking, director Julie Dash received the cold shoulder from Hollywood executives when she approached them with her first feature-length film, Daughters of the Dust. Told that the film was too different to be marketable, Dash maintained in a Boston Globe interview that she was dismissed in a manner consistent with a systematic pattern of excluding black women from Hollywood. Undaunted, she has since had the film produced in collaboration with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and distributed by Kino International. And she remains confident: Im a very hopeful person, Dash told the Detroit Free Press,and I think we can accomplish a lot through film in the 90s. Were going to see a lot of film work done by black women who have different concerns than our brothers who make films.... We have strong statements to make because weve been silenced for so long.

The success of Daughters of the Dust the first nationally distributed feature-length film by an African American womanhas given the filmmaker every reason for optimism. Daughters of the Dust focuses on a family of Gullahsblacks living on islands off the southeastern coast of the United Statesat the dawn of the twentieth century. The film received critical acclaim and demonstrated widespread box office appeal. The Boston Globe called it mesmerizing; the Atlanta Constitution described it as poetry in motion; and the Village Voice said that Daughters of the Dust was an unprecedented achievement. Audiences have been equally forthcoming in their praise. A woman leaving a sold-out New York City premiere performance told New York magazine, Its hard to explain. It makes you feel connected to all those before you that you never knew, to parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. Im a different person now from seeing this movie. Its a rejuvenation, a catharsis. Whatever color you are, people want to feel that sense of belonging. And then she burst into tears.

Born and raised in a Queens, New York, housing project, Julie Dash had little knowledge of her South Sea Island heritage until she noticed her fathers funny accent, she told the Los Angeles Times. Many years later she recognized it as Gullah, a West African-influenced English dialect preserved off the coast of Georgia, South Carolina, and northeastern Florida. Dashs father was only her first exposure to Gullah culture. She told the Village Voice that

At a Glance

Born c. 1952 in Queens, New York; married Arthur Jafa (separated); children: Nzinga. Education: Attended City College of New York; David Picker Film Institute, B.A., 1974; postgraduate study in film at American Film Institute and University of California at Los Angeles.

Wrote and produced promotional documentary Working Models of Success; directed adaptation of a short story by Alice Walker, Diary of an African Nun, 1977; produced experimental dance film Four Women, 1978; co-sponsored a screening of short films in the Marche du Cinema as part of the Cannes International Film Festival, 1980; directed short film titled Illusions, 1980; directed feature-length film Daughters of the Dust, released by Kino International, 1992. Member of Classifications and Ratings Administration for the Motion Picture Association of America, 1978-80.

Awards: Center for Advanced Film Studies fellow, American Film Institute; grant from National Endowment for the Arts, 1976; Los Angeles Film Expositions Directors Guild Award for student film for Diary of an African Nun; Miami International Film Festival Gold Medal for Women in Film, 1978, for Four Women; grant from Guggenheim Foundation, 1981; Black Cinema Society Award, 1985, for Illusions; grant from Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 1987; Black Filmmaker Foundations Jury Prize for best film of the decade, 1989, for Illusions; best cinematography award, Sundance Film Festival, 1991, for Daughters of the Dust; Fulbright fellow.

Addresses: Office Kino International Corporation, 333 West 39th Street, New York, NY 10018.

as a child she had encountered it daily through the rituals practiced by her caretaker, a woman who would burn the loose strands of Dashs hair after she had combed it so no one could get hold of it. And talk about hiding your pictures so no one could put gopher dust on them and drive you crazy.

Dashs interest in film was piqued after the teenager enrolled in a film production course at the Studio Museum in Harlem. After a short stint in psychology at the City College of New York, she pursued the study of film at the Leonard Davis Center for the Arts in the David Picker Film Institute, where she would receive her bachelor of arts degree in 1974. While there, Dash wrote and produced Working Models of Success, a promotional documentary, for the New York Urban Coalition.

Armed with a two-year fellowship, Dash moved to Los Angeles in order to attend the Center for Advanced Film Studies at the American Film Institute. Studying under such distinguished filmmakers as William Friedkin, Jan Kadar, and Slavko Vorkapich, Dash established a solid foundation for her mature filmmaking style. Influenced by Vorkapichs fascination with kinesthetic movement in cinema, she produced Four Women, an experimental dance film that received a Gold Medal for Women in Film at the 1978 Miami International Film Festival. The theme of women in motion that Four Women explored would later become a central focus of Daughters of the Dust.

Dash honed her filmmaking skills at the University of California at Los Angeles. There she directed Diary of an African Nun, an adaptation of a short story by Alice Walker, in 1977. In fact, the literature of prominent black women authors played a significant role in Dashs decision to become involved with creative film. I stopped making documentaries after discovering Toni Morrison, Toni Cade Bambara, and Alice Walker, she explained to the Village Voice. Id wondered, why cant we see movies like this? I realized I needed to learn how to make narrative movies.

Between 1978 and 1980 Dash worked as a member of the Classifications and Ratings Administration for the Motion Picture Association of America. As a voting member of a six-person board, she screened films for distribution in the United States, assigning audience ratings that would determine their viewership. In 1980, while on a special assignment screening at the Cannes International Film Festival, Dash co-sponsored a screening of short films in the Marche du Cinema. That screening led to a historic retrospective of Afro-American cinema held at Pariss Forum Les Halle in October of 1980.

Focused on African American Women

In 1983 Dash took on a project that would allow her to explore narrative film. Focusing on the role of black women in twentieth-century America, she directed the short Illusions, the first in an ongoing series. Set in a World War II Hollywood studio, Illusions examined the themes of sexual and racial discrimination through the portrayal of an African American woman passing for white. Critically acclaimed, the film received the Black Cinema Society Award in 1985 and, in 1989, was the recipient of the Black Filmmaker Foundations Jury Prize for best film of the decade.

In Illusions, the entity of the African American woman is depicted with a depth of character not often seen in American cinema. In all of Dashs films, said a Detroit Free Press contributor, black women belie the Hollywood stereotypes. Dashs black woman is a complex bundle of hope and regret, joy and pain, tenderness and fury, vulnerability and strength. Were bombarded with the same film images over and over, Dash proclaimed in the Free Press. And because were so desperate to see images of ourselves on screen, we go out and support them. Thats what makes the gatekeepers in Hollywood think thats all we want.

Explored Gullah Culture

With Daughters of the Dust Dash challenged the prevailing Hollywood perception. Taking place at the turn of the century on Ibo Landing, an island off the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina, the film tells the saga of a matriarchy of slave descendants on the eve of a new era. Isolated on the South Sea Islands, the family belongs to a community that has maintained its African-inspired Gullah society. Prior to the groups migration to the industrialized north, the familys multigenerational women struggle with the notion of relinquishing their ancestral traditions to become assimilated into dominant Western culture. While the family celebrates its Gullah heritage with a last supper, the women emerge as individualized characters with strongly held views.

Inspired by her own background, Dash directed the film in the manner of a griot, or storyteller, piecing together her tale from a series of evocative seaside tableaux. I wanted to tell the story like an African griot would, she told the Los Angeles Times. A griot is a man hired by families at celebrationsweddings, funerals, reunionswho over a period of several days would recount the familys history. Acting as Dashs narrators are an unborn child, whose impressionistic recollections skip playfully through the present and future, and the familys aging matriarch, who personifies the past. In the matriarchs words, We are two people in one body. The last of the old and the first of the new.

As the griots story unfolds, Dashs characters engage in a literal dance of life, frolicking on the seashore in hypnotic, dreamlike sequences. The poetry of their dance is complemented by John Barness musical scorea combination of African, Arabic, and New Age soundsand Arthur Jafas stunning cinematography. The sense of poetry that Daughters of the Dust evokes was no accident. What makes poets good, Dash explained to the Los Angeles Times, is that they take everyday language and rephrase it so that you never forget it. I wanted to take the African American experience and rephrase it in such a way that... the visuals would be so haunting it would break through with a freshness about what we already know.

Daughters of the Dust Reached the Big Screen

Historically accurate and rich in African symbolism, Daughters of the Dust was the product of ten years of intensive research. Supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Dash wrote the script for the original filmthen intended to be a short filmin 1976, while studying at the American Film Institute. In 1981, with the aid of a Guggenheim Foundation grant, she continued her research, collecting oral histories of South Sea Islanders and studying the Gullah dialect. Dash won the support of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1987; production of the film began two years later on a modest $800,000 budget.

With those funds Dash assembled a crew of local Gullah actors and began producing the film on location in the South Sea Islands. Everyone was aware that these were the islands where the slaves were quarantined and fattened up... before being sent to the ports of Charleston, she explained in the Village Voice. Struck by Hurricane Hugo in mid-production, she continued, one of the actresses, Verta Mae Grosvenor, came up and told me, you stirring too much stuff up girl.

Although a film of Daughter of the Dusts epic proportions is a hard act to follow, Julie Dash has only just begun. Working on a Fulbright fellowship project in London, there is little doubt that she will continue to stir up too much stuff.

Selected writings

(And director) Daughters of the Dust (screenplay), Kino International, 1992.

(With bell hooks and Toni Cade Bambara) Daughters of the Dust: The Making of an African American Womans Film, New Press, 1992.

Sources

Ann Arbor News, May 29, 1992.

Atlanta Constitution, March 13, 1992.

Boston Globe, March 20, 1992.

Chicago Tribune, January 3, 1992.

Detroit Free Press, May 21, 1992.

Emerge, January 1992.

Essence, February 1992.

Los Angeles Times, March 6, 1992; March 20, 1992.

New York, March 30, 1992.

New York Daily News, January 15, 1992.

Philadelphia Inquirer, February 21, 1992.

Village Voice, June 4, 1991; January 21, 1992.

Nina Goldstein

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Dash, Julie 1952(?)–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Dash, Julie 1952(?)–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/dash-julie-1952

"Dash, Julie 1952(?)–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved September 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/dash-julie-1952

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Dash, Julie

Dash, Julie

October 22, 1952


The filmmaker Julie Dash was born and raised in New York City. She began studying film as a teenager in 1969 at the Studio Museum of Harlem. After receiving a B.A. in film production from the City College of New York, Dash moved to Los Angeles to attend the Center for Advanced Film Studies at the American Film Institute (she is the youngest person ever to receive a fellowship to attend this institution). She later did graduate work at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Dash's films are sensitive, complex portrayals of the dilemmas confronting a diverse group of black women. While at the American Film Institute, she directed Four Women, an experimental dance film inspired by the Nina Simone song of the same title. The film won the 1977 Golden Medal for Women in Film at the Miami International Film Festival. In addition, she directed Diary of an African Nun, based on a short story by Alice Walker, during her time at the institute. This film was the 1977 winner of the Director's Guild Award. Her 1983 black-and-white short Illusions, the story of a fair-skinned black female film executive set in 1942, was nominated for a Cable ACE Award in art direction and is permanently archived at Indiana University and at Clark College in Atlanta.

In 1986 Dash relocated to Atlanta from Los Angeles and began work on Daughters of the Dust. Generally regarded as the first feature-length film by an African-American woman, Daughters of the Dust opened in 1992 to critical acclaim. Its nonlinear narrative, focusing on the Gullah culture of the South Carolina Sea Islands, centers on the lives of African-American women. They are the bearers of the culture, tellers of the tales, and most important, spectators for whom she created the film. Dash's approach to filmmaking has been "to show black women at pivotal moments in their lives [to] focus on and depict experiences that have never been shown on screen before."

Dash then moved to London to collaborate on a screenplay with Maureen Blackwood, a founding member of Sankofa Film and Video, a collective of young black British filmmakers. She also began work on a series of films depicting black women in the United States from the turn of the twentieth century to the year 2000. In 2002, Dash directed the highly acclaimed television movie The Rosa Parks Story, about the woman credited with spawning the modern civil rights movement. The movie was nominated for Black Reel and Directors Guild of America awards.

See also Film in the United States, Contemporary

Bibliography

Baker, Houston. "Not Without My Daughters." Transition 57 (1992): 150166.

Davis, Zeinabu Irene. "An Interview with Julie Dash." Wide Angle 13, nos. 3 and 4 (1991): 120137.

Klotman, Phyllis Rauch. "Julie Dash." In Screenplays of the African-American Experience edited by Phyllis Klotman, pp. 191195. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.

Mills, David. "A Dash of Difference." Washington Post, February 28, 1992, p. C1.

Ryan, Judylyn S. "Outing the Black Feminist Filmmaker in Julie Dash's Illusions. " Signs 30, No. 1 (Autumn, 2004): 13191344.

farah jasmine griffin (1996)
Updated by publisher 2005

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Dash, Julie." Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Dash, Julie." Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/dash-julie

"Dash, Julie." Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. . Retrieved September 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/dash-julie

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Dash, Julie

Julie Dash

Personal

Born 1952, in New York, NY; married Arthur Jafa (separated); children: N'zinga (daughter). Education: Participated in Studio Museum of Harlem filmmaking workshop; City College of New York, B.A.; American Film Institute, producing/writing fellow in conservatory program; University of California (Los Angeles), M.F.A.

Addresses

Agent—c/o Dutton, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014; Harley Neuman and Associates, fax: 818-995-1132. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Screenwriter, producer, and director. Motion Picture Association of America, Los Angeles, CA, member of Classifications and Ratings Administration, 1978-80; Geechee Girls Multimedia Productions, Inc., founder. Director of documentaries, films, and music videos, including Working Models of Success (documentary), 1973; Diary of an African Nun (short film), 1977; Four Women (short film), 1975; Illusions (short film), 1983; Breaking the Silence, National Black Women's Health Project, 1988; Preventing Cancer, Morehouse School of Medicine, 1989; Relatives (for television), 1990; Praise House (for television), 1991; (also producer) Daughters of the Dust (feature film), American Playhouse/Geechee Girls, 1992; Lost in the Night (music video), performed by Peabo Bryson, 1992; Breaths (music video), performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock, 1994; Give Me One Reason (music video), performed by Tracy Chapman, 1996; More than One Way Home (music video), performed by Keb Mo, 1996; Thinking of You (music video), performed by Tony Toni Tone, 1997; "Sax/Cantor Riff" for Subway Stories: Tales from the Underground, HBO, 1997; Funny Valentines, BET Movies, 1998; Incognito, Imani Pictures, 1999; Love Song, MTV, 2001; The Rosa Parks Story, CBS, 2002; Love Is All Around (music video), performed by Adriana Evans; and "Grip 'til It Hurts" for Women's Anthology Series, Showtime.

Awards, Honors

Director's Guild Award for best student film, 1977; Gold Medal for Women in Film, Miami International Film Festival, 1978, for Four Women; National Endowment for the Humanities individual artist grant, 1981, 1983, 1985; Guggenheim grant, 1981; Black Cinema Society Award, 1985; Jury Prize for Best Film of the Decade, Black Filmmakers Foundation, 1989; Best Cinematography, Sundance Film Festival, CEBA Pioneer of Excellence Award, Vesta Award for media and visual arts, Oscar Micheaux Award, Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, Best Independent Producer designation, National Black Programming Consortium, Fulbright fellowship, Guggenheim fellowship, Rockefeller intercultural fellowship, and Black Cinema Society Award, all 1991, and Maya Deren Award, American Film Institute, Special Recognition, Black Oscar, Best Film award, Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, named among Mirabella's "100 Fearless Women," Lillian Award, Delta Sigma Sorority, Candace Award for Trailblazer, Coalition of 100 Black Women, Dorothy Arzner Award, Women in Film, and Certificate of Appreciation for "first feature length film in theatrical distribution by an African-American woman," U.S. Congress member Maxine Waters, all 1992, and Newark Black Film Festival award, 1999, all for Daughters of the Dust; NAACP Image Award, Best Television Movie Prize from the 4th Annual Family Television Awards, New York Christopher Award, and Director's Guild Award nomination, all 2003, all for The Rosa Parks Story.

Writings

SCREENPLAYS

Working Models of Success, 1973.

Diary of an African Nun, 1977.

Four Women, 1975.

Illusions, 1983.

Daughters of the Dust (produced by American Playhouse/Geechee Girls, 1992; also see below), published with memoir as Daughters of the Dust: The Making of an African-American Woman's Film, New Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Digital Diva, Geechee Girls Multimedia, 2001.

(With Michael Simanga) Enemy of the Sun, Geechee Girls Multimedia, 2001.

OTHER

Daughters of the Dust (novelization of screenplay), Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.

Sidelights

Julie Dash claims that she never intended to become a filmmaker; indeed, it was serendipity that led her to discover the creative satisfaction and possibilities for expression inherent in cinematography. Writing and directing her first short film in the early 1970s, Dash has gone on to become an independent filmmaker acclaimed for her on-screen representations of African-American women. With the general release of Daughters of the Dust in 1992, she became the first black American woman to direct a full-length general theatrical film.

Born in New York City in 1952, Dash spent her early years in the Queensbridge Housing Projects in Long Island City. As she wrote in her Daughters of the Dust: The Making of an African-American Women's Film, her path to filmmaking occurred quite by accident when she was seventeen years old. "I was just tagging along with a friend who had heard about a cinematography workshop [at the Studio Museum in Harlem] and thought she could learn to take still photos. We joined the workshop and became members of a group of young African Americans discovering the power of making and redefining our images on the screen." The challenge of the workshop captured Dash's interest, and when she was nineteen years old, she made her first film, The Legend of Carl Lee DuVall. Using pictures from Jet magazine attached to pipe cleaners and shooting with a Super-8 camera, the effort was described by Dash as an "animated film about a pimp who goes to an African village and is beaten and dragged out of the village by the people there."

Although she loved the creative potential and the sheer fun of cinematography, Dash did not think of it in terms of becoming a lifetime pursuit. She intended to become a physical education teacher when she entered college; then, as an undergraduate at the City College of New York, she majored in psychology. While still a student, she discovered a special film-studies program at the Leonard Davis Center for the Performing Arts. It was her successful interview at the David Picker Film Institute that permitted her to graduate from City College of New York with a degree in film production. Even before graduation, however, she was being productive: in 1974 she wrote and produced Working Models of Success, a promotional documentary for the New York Urban Coalition.

Armed with a bachelor of arts in film production, she immediately set off for the West Coast. Los Angeles was home to many black documentary filmmakers; the promise of camaraderie, mentorship, and support was appealing. She began her career by joining the crew of Larry Clark's 1973 film Passing Through, working as a sound assistant. It was there, in the California desert, that she met actress Cora Lee Day, who was later to portray Nana Peazant in Daughters of the Dust. Dash then applied for a fellowship to the Center for Advanced Film Studies at the American Film Institute. One of the youngest fellows to attend, she studied under William Friedkin, Jan Kadar, Slavko Vorkapich, and other distinguished filmmakers.

Films Earn Recognition and Awards

During her two-year fellowship, Dash worked diligently and her efforts foreshadowed the quality of her later films, and she completed a feature-length screenplay, Enemy of the Sun. Her work also earned her two auspicious awards. In 1977, Dash received a Director's Guild Award for a student film that was shown at the Los Angeles film exposition, an adaptation of an Alice Walker short story titled Diary of an African Nun. One year later, she was awarded a Gold Medal for Women in Film at the 1978 Miami International Film Festival for Four Women. This award-winning work, an experimental dance film, was both conceived and directed by Dash.

Following her tenure at the American Film Institute, Dash got a job at the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which is headquartered in Los Angeles. As a member of the MPAA's Classifications and Rating Administration, she was one of six voting board members who made daily decisions that affected the fortunes of more than 350 movies made each year. As part of her affiliation with the MPAA, Dash traveled to Europe and attended the Cannes International Film Festival in France. In 1980 she co-sponsored a session at the festival; this presentation was comprised of several short films by black Americans.

Dash's fascination with depicting diverse and positive images of black women in film led to a 1981 Guggenheim grant to create a series of films about black women. That grant sparked the films that would bring her wide acclaim. According to S. V. Hartman and Farah Griffin in Black American Literature Forum, The 1983 film Illusions, a thirty-four-minute picture set in Hollywood, "raised the difficult question 'How can blackness be truly represented, if at all?'" N. H. Goodall, writing in Black Women in America, explained that the film explores issues of race and gender by focusing upon two African-American characters during the 1940s: "Two black women occupy differing spaces in wartime … Hollywood: one has become a studio executive while passing for white; the other is a behind-the-scenes singer, dubbing the voices of the white starlets on the screen. Both illustrate how the film industry specifically and society in general conspire to keep Black women both voiceless and invisible." Illusions was highly acclaimed upon its release, and was awarded the 1989 Jury Prize for Best Film of the Decade by the Black Filmmakers Foundation, was nominated for a 1988 CableAce Award in art direction, was the season opener of the Learning Channel's series on fictional works by independent filmmakers, and won for its creator the 1985 Black Cinema Society Award.

During the 1980s, Dash was extremely busy. She received individual artist grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1981, 1983, and 1985. In 1982, she joined a group of other black American independent filmmakers at a film festival in England that "occasioned the historical meeting of Black American independent filmmakers with their British counterparts," as she explained. Later in 1982, Dash was invited to attend the Festival against Racism in Amiens, France, and in 1983 two of her films were selected as part of the Black Filmmakers Foundation exhibit to introduce African audiences in forty countries to the works of black Americans. In 1986, Dash relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, to work on several projects: she served as directing apprentice for The Leader of the Band and became involved in the National Black Women's Health Project, helping to create information videotapes. In 1987, Dash was involved with two works for the women's health project: directing Breaking the Silence: On Reproductive Rights and producing, directing, and editing Preventing Cancer.

Daughters of the Dust Takes Form

Dash's Daughters of the Dust had begun quite modestly in 1975, and in addition to her other projects undertaken during the 1980s, the filmmaker continued to devote time to this project, watching it grow in scope. Originally, as Dash wrote in her book about the film, she had conceived a different film: "a short silent film about the migration of an African American family from the Sea Islands off of the South Carolina mainland to the mainland and then the North. I envisioned it as a kind of 'Last Supper' before migration and the separation of the family." The birth of her own daughter, N'zinga, in 1984, was further impetus for the Daughters of the Dust project. As a mother, Dash now clearly and personally saw unity of the past, present, and future. N'zinga became the prototype for the unborn spirit child who moves so freely among the film's characters. The film was also, in a sense, a gift to N'zinga, since it is grounded in Dash's own family history.

In 1988, Dash founded Geechee Girls Productions, Inc., a company based in Atlanta. As its founder describes it, the company "brings to bear the power and the voice of the African American female's spirit into the area of media production." Daughters of the Dust ultimately became a Geechee Girls production, although as Sheila Rule wrote in the New York Times, Dash made the film "against stiff odds. Hollywood producers and distributors said there was no market or audience for a film they considered inaccessible, and financing was scarce. The situation was complicated by what Ms. Dash says is Hollywood's exclusion of black female film makers, despite the recent wave of interest in films by and about blacks." Dash wrote in her memoir of the making of the film: "The distributors talked about the spectacular look of the film and the images and story being so different and thought-provoking, yet the consistent response was that there was 'no market' for this type of film. Again, I was hearing mostly white men telling me, an African American woman, what my people wanted to see. In fact, they were deciding what we should be allowed to see. I knew that was wrong. I knew they were wrong."

Daughters of the Dust is set in the Sea Islands, called the Gullah, off the Georgia-South Carolina coast, where the Geechee culture evolved in the community of African slaves who first settled there. The island people maintain African tradition and speak a form of Creole, which is mostly English but contains West African intonation and grammar. Dash's father's family came from the islands and Charleston, South Carolina. As Rule explained, Dash had long wanted to produce a film in this setting because she considered the islands "a kind of Ellis Island for black Americans." Rule noted that Daughters of the Dust is told "in the manner of a West African griot, or storyteller," a method Dash explains as "the way an old relative would retell it, not linear but always coming back around."

The story begins in 1926 when Amelia Varnes returns to her ancestral home to research her past and prepare her thesis toward a degree in anthropology. Her relatives include the strong, beautiful women of the Peazant family who "gather together one last time before much of the family moves north on the mainland," according to a review of Daughters of the Dust: The Making of an African-American Woman's Film by Kathi Maio in the Women's Review of Books. "In the time it takes for them to prepare, consume and digest a picnic feast, they come to terms with family scandals and wounds, retell stories and legends of their people, pay homage to their heritage through ritual, and look to a new and uncertain future." Amelia becomes close to her cousin Elizabeth, who instructs Amelia in their culture. Maio said that Dash's book provides "explanatory action and character notes in addition to dialogue" which is "especially useful for those of the film's viewers … confused by a bit of Gullah dialect or an evocative gesture." In Dash's book Gregory Tate is quoted as stating that "the film works on … emotions in ways that have less to do with what happens in the plot than with the ways the characters personalize the broader traumas, triumphs, tragedies, and anxieties peculiar to the African American experience."

Daughters of the Dust was released to great critical acclaim and earned Dash a number of prestigious film awards and related honors, including prizes from the Sundance Film Festival, the American Film Institute, and the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. Eventually, in July of 1992, the film was nationally televised as part of the Public Broadcasting System's American Playhouse series. As Toni Cade Bambara wrote in her preface to Daughters of the Dust: The Making of an African-American Woman's Film, "currently Daughters is enjoying cult status. It is not unreasonable to predict that it will shortly achieve the status it deserves—classic." Dash's success with the story continued with the publication of her novel adaptation of her screenplay, which a Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote "introduces the reader to a fascinating, largely vanished way of life … with [a] painterly eye." A Kirkus Reviews critic called the novelization "a loving tribute to a distinctive people, exotic place, and now-vanished way of life."

Dash's more recent film work has appeared on television, and she has also directed a number of music videos. Her 1999 cable television movie Incognito focuses on a rich girl who, after being sheltered her whole life, finds herself suddenly stalked by a dangerous killer. In 2001 Dash directed Love Song for MTV; the film tells the story of a romance between a black female pre-med student and a white blues musician. In 2002, she served as director of the television movie Rosa Parks, which chronicles the life of a major figure in the civil rights movement.

If you enjoy the works of Julie Dash

you may also want to check out the following movies:

A Different Image, an independent film by Alile Sharon Larkin, 1982.

Once Upon a Time … When We Were Colored, directed by Tim Reid, 1995.

Rosewood, directed by John Singleton, 1997.

Speaking of the role of black filmmakers in the United States, Dash once stated: "One of the ongoing struggles of African American filmmakers is the fight against being pushed, through financial and social pressure, into telling only one kind of story. African Americans have stories as varied as any other people in American society. As varied as any other people in the world. Our lives, our history, our present reality is no more limited to 'ghetto' stories, than Italian Americans are to the Mafia, or Jewish Americans to the Holocaust. We have so many stories to tell. It will greatly enrich American filmmaking and American culture if we tell them."

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Acker, Ally, Reel Women, Continuum (New York, NY), 1991.

Dash, Julie, Daughters of the Dust: The Making of an African-American Women's Film, New Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Hine, Darlene Clark, editor, Black Women in America, Carlson Publishing (Brooklyn, NY), 1993.

Rich, B. Ruby, Chick Flicks: Theories and Memories of the Feminist Film Movement, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 1998.

Women Filmmakers and Their Films, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.

PERIODICALS

African American Review, spring, 1993, Jacquie Jones, "The Black South in Contemporary Film," pp. 19-24; spring, 1995, Joel R. Brouwer, "Repositioning: Center and Margin in Julie Dash's 'Daughters of the Dust,'" pp. 5-17.

African Arts, January, 1993, James Lowell Gibbs, Jr., review of Daughters of the Dust, p. 81.

Afterimage, April, 1992, Darrell Moore, review of Daughters of Dust, p. 4.

American Visions, February, 1991, Valerie Boyd, review of Daughters of the Dust, pp. 46-48; February, 1993, p. 34.

Black American Literature Forum, summer, 1991, S. V. Hartman and Farah Jasmine Griffin, "Are You as Colored as That Negro?: The Politics of Being Seen in Julie Dash's Illusions," pp. 361-373.

Black Scholar, winter, 1993, p. 42.

Booklist, October 15, 1997, p. 385.

Camera Obscura, May, 1996, Julia Erhart, "Picturing What If: Julie Dash's Speculative Fiction," pp. 116-131.

Catholic Reporter, March 27, 1992, p. 14.

Chicago Sun-Times, March 13, 1992.

CineAction, Number 49, 1999, April Biccum, "Third Cinema in the 'First' World: 'Eve's Bayou' and 'Daughters of the Dust,'" pp. 60-65.

Entertainment Weekly, October 31, 1997, p. 101.

Essence, February, 1992, Deborah Thomas, "Julie Dash," p. 38.

Glamour, March, 1992, Veronica Chambers, "Finally, a Black Woman behind the Camera," p. 111.

Jet, March 23, 1992, Sylvia Flanagan, "Daughters of the Dust," p. 62.

Journal of Narrative and Life History, Volume 5, number 2, 1995, F. L. Aldama, "Structural Configuration of Magic Realism in the Works of Gabriel García Marquéz, Leslie Marmon Silko, Charles Johnson, and Julie Dash," pp. 147-160.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1997, review of Daughters of the Dust: The Making of an African-American Women's Film, p. 1129.

Michigan Quarterly Review, spring, 1993, p. 285.

Mother Jones, November-December, 1990, Vera Chan, "The Dust of History," p. 60.

New Republic, February 10, 1992, Stanley Kauffman, review of Daughters of the Dust, pp. 26-29; December 28, 1992, p. 25.

New Statesman and Society, September 17, 1993, Jonathan Romney, review of Daughters of the Dust, p. 34.

New York, March 30, 1992, p. 27.

New York Times, January 16, 1992, Stephen Holden, review of Daughters of the Dust, p. B5; February 12, 1992, Sheila Rule, "Director Defies the Odds, and Wins," p. B3.

New York Times Book Review, December 14, 1997, p. 22.

People, July 27, 1992, p. 11.

Playboy, May, 1992, p. 22.

Publishers Weekly, August 25, 1997, review of Daughters of the Dust: The Making of an African-American Women's Film, p. 43.

Quarterly Review of Film and Video, July, 1994, Gloria J. Gibson-Hudson, "The Ties That Bind: Cinematic Representations by Black Women Filmmakers," pp. 25-44.

Sight and Sound, September, 1993, K. Alexander, "Daughters of the Dust: Julie Dash Talks about African American Women's Cinema and Images from Her Film," pp. 20-22.

Transition, Volume 57, 1992, Houston A. Baker, Jr., "Not without My Daughters," pp. 150-166.

Variety, February 11, 1991, p. 112.

Voice Literary Supplement, February, 1993, p. 31.

Washington Post, February 28, 1992.

Women's Review of Books, February, 1993, Kathi Maio, review of Daughters of the Dust: The Making of an African-American Women's Film, p. 10.

ONLINE

Geechee Girls Multimedia,http://geechee.tv/ (December 7, 2004).

OTHER

Welbon, Yvonne, The Cinematic Jazz of Julie Dash (film), 1993.*

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Dash, Julie." Authors and Artists for Young Adults. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Dash, Julie." Authors and Artists for Young Adults. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/culture-magazines/dash-julie

"Dash, Julie." Authors and Artists for Young Adults. . Retrieved September 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/culture-magazines/dash-julie

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Dash, Julie

DASH, Julie

DASH, Julie. American. Genres: Plays/Screenplays. Career: Screenwriter, producer, and director. Motion Picture Association of America, Los Angeles, CA, member of Classifications and Ratings Administration, 1978-80; Geechee Girls Multimedia Productions Inc., founder. Director of documentaries, films, and music videos. Publications: SCREENPLAYS: Working Models of Success, 1973; Diary of an African Nun, 1977; Four Women, 1975; Illusions, 1983; Daughters of the Dust, 1992, published with memoir as Daughters of the Dust: The Making of an African American Woman's Film, 1992, novel adaptation as Daughters of the Dust, 1997. Address: c/o Dutton, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014, U.S.A. Online address: [email protected]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Dash, Julie." Writers Directory 2005. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Dash, Julie." Writers Directory 2005. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/culture-magazines/dash-julie-0

"Dash, Julie." Writers Directory 2005. . Retrieved September 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/culture-magazines/dash-julie-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.