Open Classroom: Daughters of the Dust
This Spring, join students and faculty from the Department of Cinema and Media Studies as we open classroom screenings to the public. This time, we’re highlighting Professor Daniel Morgan’s course Between Theory and Practice, which looks at filmmakers who were also critics and theorists: filmmakers who wrote about other films and filmmakers, about moving-image media more broadly, and, most of all, about their own work.
The first American feature directed by an African American woman to receive a general theatrical release, Julie Dash's 1991 masterpiece announced a formidable new talent with its masterful interplay of mise en scène, symbolic markers and magical realist gestures. Set in 1902, the film focuses on an extended family of Gullah, descendants of African captives who escaped the slave trade to live on islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. On the verge of moving the entire family to the American mainland, the many members of the Peazant clan clash over the meaning and implications of this crossing. Named to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry in 2004, Daughters of the Dust eloquently frames questions that have preoccupied many independent filmmakers of Dash's generation: the place of family and tradition in ameliorating historical wrongs, the hope of spiritual escape from a history of trauma, and the elusive possibility of finding deliverance together. (Julie Dash, USA, 1991, 112 min., DCP)
Daniel Morgan is Professor and Chair of the Department of Cinema and Media Studies. He has written extensively on André Bazin and other figures within the history of film theory, on contemporary trends in film and media theory, and on the broader implications posed by considerations of film form. His books include Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema (2012) and The Lure of the Image: Epistemic Fantasies of the Moving Camera (2021).