Words cannot begin to describe the enthusiasm that accompanied the 1991 release of Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust. In the New York Times review Stephen Holden proclaimed that Dash "emerges as a strikingly original film maker." Even fans who praised the film couldn't help but damn it with such faint praise as calling it "visual poetry, a wedding of imagery and rhythm that connects oral tradition with the music video" "a tone poem of old memories," and "heady swirl [that] is confusing to follow" it set all kinds of records upon it's original release. Roger Ebert sites the key to its initial success: "The movie would seem to have slim commercial prospects, and yet by word of mouth it is attracting steadily growing audiences. At the Film Forum in New York, it has grossed $140,000 in a month. The Film Center of the School of the Art Insti tute of Chicago did standing-room business last January, and brought it back again. It opens commercially today at the Fine Arts in Chicago, and in selected other markets."
The following quote from a viewer is described in New York Magazine: ""It's hard to explain. It makes you feel connected to all those before you that you never knew, to parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. I'm a different person now from seeing this movie. It's a rejuvenation, a catharsis. Whatever color you are, people want to feel that sense of belonging"
Audience had - quite literally - never seen anything like it.
Yet despite the film's break-out success, audiences haven't really seen anything like it since.
From Wikipedia: "In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, Dash states "I'm a very hopeful person and I think we can accomplish a lot through film in the '90s. We're 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 we've been silenced for so long".
In retrospect, we now know that Dash's optimistic vision was never realized.
Wouldn't you like to ask her what she thinks of this?
Julie Dash kicks off the Black Women Film Festival with a Special Screening of Daughters of the Dust at the Landmark Midtown Arts Cinema Thursday, June 14 at 7 PM. Click here for tickets.
For context, here's some food for thought about minorities and women in Hollywood:
On NPR filmmaker Donnell Alexander offers the following commentary: In Hollywood, An Urban Legend Worth A Fact-Check
A shockingly low number of African-Americans thrive in the movie business. Here's one statistic: Of the 150 highest-grossing films last year, nine of them had black directors.
Or try this statistic: Last summer there were two Hollywood movies with a black male star topping the marquee. They were The Karate Kid, played by 12-year-old Jaden Smith, and Lottery Ticket, starring former kid rapper Bow Wow.
In the terrific blog Women and Hollywood, Melissa Silverstein posts the following Facts and Statistics about Women and Film In Hollywood courtesy of The Center for the Study of Women In Television and Film:
Statistics on the State of Women and Hollywood
Women Behind the Scenes
Women directed 5% of the top grossing films. (down 2% from 2010)
Women wrote 14% of the top grossing films. (up 4% from 2010)
Women comprised 18% of all executive producers. (up 3% from 2010)
Women comprised 25% of all producers. (up 1% from 2010)
20% of all editors were women. (up 2% from 2010)
4% of all cinematographers were women. (up 2% from 2010)
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