|Director July Dash (Daughters of the Dust and Scratch Line) |
at the MVFF 39 October 14, 2016
As a member of the National Writers Union and affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists, it is my profound honor to represent the California Film Institute in presenting director Julie Dash the Mill Valley Film Festival Award. This award honors the excellence of her lifetime body of work.” —None of these words could I have imagined coming from my mouth. But, on October 12, 2016, that is what I said at the 39th Mill Valley film festival. MVFF is one of the longest running Film Festival’s in North America with an audience this year of more than 65,000.
Recently digitally remastered by the Coleman Library, director Dash’s DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST aesthetic remains incomparable with a message persistently timely. An African American family prepares to leave their Gullah Island home. They and their descendants have lived on that land since long before the Emancipation Proclamation. Tensions between the power of the familiar and perils of a new existence are made abundantly clear by a matriarch. She is a first degree relative to those brought as slaves from Africa.
The re-released version of DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, screened at the MVFF39, was preceded by the premiere of Dash’s provocative new short film, STANDING @ THE SCRATCH LINE. This new work is a part of the Great Migration Project. It lyrically traces the arrival of the first Africans on the Gullah Island shore their generations of migration from the Gullah Geechee Lowcountry to Philadelphia, PA. The film links the survival of a people to the strengths of the sacred architecture of African American Churches.
Filmmaker Julie Dash’s screen voice is an offspring of the “LA Rebellion”. The LA Rebellion creative movement emerged from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television during the late 1960s and 1970s. The Rebellion was, and is, the bard of complex justice issues, while also an anti-venom for racism and classism.
Twenty years after the LA Rebellion, in 1991, internationally recognized, Julie Dash’s DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, was the first feature-length film by an African American woman with United States theatrical release. The film coincided with a period when we, in clinical medical ethics, were defining the importance of cross-cultural communication in medicine — particularly at the edges of life — birth and death.
The battle was to get an understanding of race class and culture into the medical curriculum.
In a real way Ms. Dash’s work help to combat health disparity across race, class and culture. Her's is an anthropological short hand bundling the reality of what had before been like talking only about the reflection of stars — Now, one can actually show the celestial body of cultural complexity to colleagues and say, “ This is part of what you are working with when you diagnose a person with a life threatening illness, with its fears, attendant loss of family and culture.” Director Julie Dash manages to demonstrate that a culture can be simultaneously different from others, while expressing universal concerns.
Other works by Ms. Dash are THE ROSA PARKS STORY, INCOGNITO, FUNNY VALENTINES, LOVE SONG and SUBWAY STORIES. Coming soon is her film TRAVEL NOTES OF A GEECHEE GIRL, about writer- actor-griot-culinary anthropologist Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor.