Julie Dash: A Pioneer for African American Women on Film
By Maya Cade
Twenty-five year ago, Julie Dash released the historical drama “Daughters of the Dust.”
Twenty-five years ago, Dash broke racial and gender barriers by becoming the first black woman to write and direct a wide release film.
Twenty-five years ago, Dash wrote a historical drama that redefined black women in film.
But to celebrate Dash and her commitment to black women is to celebrate the continued impact and legacy that “Daughters of the Dust” has had on film.
In 2004, the award-winning film was honored through preservation in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, which aims to preserve “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant films.” Dash is the only black woman to receive the honor.
In 2016, the deep influence and cinematic style of “Daughters of the Dust” reached new audiences by being emulated in Beyoncé’s epic “Lemonade” and through a 25th anniversary re-release and restoration of the acclaimed film by the Cohen Media Group. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also named Dash a voting member of the Oscars. Additionally, the New York Film Critics Circle voted in early December to honor her with a special award that will be presented in January.
Dash’s commitment to the imagery of black women and authentic storytelling has continued since the release of the 1991 film, which focuses on a multi-generational family in the Gullah community on the Sea Islands along South Carolina. She continues her work through various projects centering on black women’s stories such as her next release, “Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl,” a documentary on the late culinary anthropologist and NPR correspondent Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor. And Dash has a “lifetime of stories left to tell.”
Her work has also opened the floodgates for other fierce black women filmmakers such as Dee Rees, Ava Duvernay and Gina Prince-Bythewood. In addition, she’s sharing her expertise with young filmmakers as a Time-Warner Visiting Professor at Howard University.
Her commitment to film, black women and authenticity makes Dash one of the fiercest women of 2016.
Maya Cade is a social media consultant and writer in Washington, D. C.