Daughters of the Dust 1991 015

Julie Dash’s 1991 movie, “Daughters of the Dust,” had enormous impact to American audience as well as international viewers for its in-depth navigation of the emotional struggles and feelings of minorities about their identity in very particular geographical setting and specific time period.  Unlike the most of the movies about similar topic, the ethnic identity of African Americans (which there are many especially in United States,) “Daughters of the Dust,” is focusing on the “Gullah culture” of the sea islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia and physical isolation of this island from the mainland constructs very unique and in some sense “purer” or simplistic relationships between individual characters, various group of people, and within one’s own understanding of his or her own cultural and historical identity with their individualistic conception of “self”.

 Despite all the complexity and various topics dealt in the movie’s actually content, the “mise-en-scene,” which is defined in Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the arrangement of actors and scenery on a stage for a theatrical production,” is extraordinary in its visual originality and roughness.  The movie well captures the “untouched” or to be more specific “barely or roughly touched” nature and its inhabitants and their strange connection. The elements besides the actually characters, such as the clothes they wear, the food they eat, and ultimately the place they live in are first foreign to them, because they did not “originated” from the soil.  This fact makes the juxtaposition of natural settings, the culture of the land, and inhabitants of this island quite uncanny but at the same time so natural.  The island has now become their own land, own culture.  The movie is trying to explain these elements’ anonymity very sensibly.

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