Releasing one's self to the new rhythm of this film can be difficult; the story is allusive, the Island history sketchy, and the precise relationships of the family members undefined. Yet, if her suggestive presentation escapes straightforward analysis, one cannot help but be mesmerized by Dash's unique vision.
Stream Daughters of the Dust
What are people saying?
What are critics saying?
Throughout the film, cinematographer Arthur Jafa brings in lovely, imaginative photography, showing a remarkable eye for light and composition, while Dash provides crisp, sensitive direction in putting together a moving work about a simple but proud people immersed in a distinct culture and ritual as they try to "touch their own spirits."
A poetic attempt to re-create a bygone culture as not only a role model for the present but also a positive mythology for the future, the movie's strong visual qualities and epic emotions make it a bracing remedy to swallow.
Neither slave nor mammy, junkie nor maid, these dawn-of-the-twentieth century African-American women are an unstereotypical breed unto themselves.
"Daughters" has a gorgeous, overwhelming sense of place. It is almost startlingly beautiful, blessed with deep fiery hues and a poetic sensibility. It is a film made stronger by its belief in itself, and it challenges its audience to believe also.... But because "Daughters" is so gloriously textured, its rewards are many. [20 Mar 1992, p.30]
There’s nothing derivative about Dash’s work; every image, every moment is a full creation.
Daughters of the Dust is hypnotic, flowing with the trance-like rhythms of a poem that is beautifully written yet deliberately arcane. It's the cinematic equivalent of the voices you hear in the fiction of Toni Morrison or Alice Walker, but without the connecting narrative thread that most novels possess and most movies imitate. The result is a difficult work, yet a haunting one. [29 May 1992]
In the hands of director Julie Dash and photographer Arthur Jafa, this nonlinear film becomes visual poetry, a wedding of imagery and rhythm that connects oral tradition with the music video. It is an astonishing, vivid portrait not only of a time and place, but of an era's spirit.
The film doesn't tell a story in any conventional sense. It tells of feelings. At certain moments we are not sure exactly what is being said or signified, but by the end we understand everything that happened - not in an intellectual way, but in an emotional way.
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.