Picks and Pans Review: American Playhouse: Daughters of the Dust
PBS (Wed., July 22, 9 P.M. ET)
Written and directed by Julie Dash, this film, released theatrically earlier in the year, tells the fact-based story of a turn-of-the-century African-American family about to leave its home off the southeastern U.S. coast to move north. The movie is more educational than entertaining.
The family is descended from slaves who were brought to the Sea Islands, the Ellis Island of the slave trade, and stayed until Abolition. Rather than involve them in a plot, Dash gathers a multitude of mostly female characters for a final family picnic and a debate about whether or not the impending move will lead to their abandoning the African heritage they’ve grown up with. The lack of action and conventional narrative makes Daughters slow going. Still, the way Dash has created a cinematic essay that immerses her audience in a world no other film has explored should appeal to those history buffs who prefer the unsensationalized approach.