Daughters of the Dust

1991 | Drama | 112 minutes | In English with some subtitles


The film is set in 1902 and focuses on the members of the Peazant family. They live on St. Simons Island located off the Georgia-South Carolina coast. They are descendants of African-American slaves. Being relatively isolated, over the centuries they developed a unique culture and language that can best be described as Gullah creole. Today, relatives have gathered to talk about their future: should they leave the island for a more modern way of life on the mainland? Trying to convince many family members to remain is the family matriarch Nana Peazant. It’s a disparate group: There’s Viola Peazant who rejects Nana’s spiritualism for Christianity; Haagar, who believes African heritage is “voodoo;” Yellow Mary, a loose woman and family pariah; and Eula, who is pregnant, possibly by a white rapist. Meanwhile, the women start preparing the traditional feast of okra, yams, and shellfish. The men gather in groups talking, praying, and asking an agonizing question: Should they stay on the island and maintain their cultural heritage or take a risk and leave the island for a new beginning?  

Cora Lee Day (Nana Peazant) | Cheryl Lynn Bruce (Viola) | Kaycee Moore (Haagar) | Barbara O. Jones (Yellow Mary) | Alva Rogers (Eula)
Why Stream This Film?
Many people in the U.S. never heard of the Gullah people, descendants of African-American slaves, living on barrier islands off the South Carolina-Georgia coast. It will be an incredible eye-opener for viewers of this film. Julie Dash was producer, writer, and director. Her father was a Gullah who migrated to New York. In an interview with Barbara McCullough, Dash stated the following: “What I have to say is so personal and so very different that there’s no way that anyone else can say it, and they can’t say it for me. That’s the reason I’m making these films and will be making these films.”
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 98%
  • Metacritic Score: 81
  • The film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
  • Sundance Film Festival: Nominated for the Grand Jury Prize
  • New York Film Critics Circle Awards: Special Award for Film Achievement

Now streaming on:

DAUGHTERS of the DUST is a tone poem of old memories, a family album in which all of the pictures are taken on the same day. Julie Dash makes this many stories about many families, and through it we understand how African-American families persisted against slavery, and tried to be true to their memories.
Roger Ebert


Julie Dash’s DAUGHTERS of the DUST is a film of spellbinding visual beauty about the Gullah people living on the Sea Islands off the South Carolina-Georgia coast at the turn of the century. For all its harsh allusions to slavery and hardship, the film is an extended, wildly lyrical meditation on the power of African cultural iconography and the spiritual resilience of the generations of women who have been its custodians.
Stephen Holden

The New York Times

DAUGHTERS of the DUST abounds with stunning motifs and tableaux, the iconography seemingly sourced from dreams as much as from history and folklore. But however seductive and trance-inducing, the visual splendor of Dash’s film is never vaporous. Dash has an uncanny way of making sense of past, present, and future.
Melissa Anderson

The Village Voice

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