Richard Brody of The New Yorker, writes:
It would be nice to think that, if the 1991 film “Daughters of the Dust” (which I discuss in this clip) were released today, it would instantly propel its director, Julie Dash, to the contemporary pantheon and launch her on a long, busy, and celebrated career. Instead, she said in a 2011 interview, “I have done cable movies. But since then, coming off the Sundance stage, I have never gotten a motion-picture deal.” This is a shock: “Daughters of the Dust” is one of the most distinctive, original independent films of the time. Richard Linklater released “Slacker” in the same year and has made fifteen features since then; some of them are excellent, but neither “Slacker” nor any of the others can hold a candle to the inventiveness of “Daughters of the Dust.” Granted, it’s not a film that has what may be called the popular touch. By way of quick comparison, it’s similar in tone to the work of Terrence Malick. But it’s worth recalling that, at the time of “Daughters of the Dust,” Malick had made only “Badlands” and “Days of Heaven,” from 1973 and 1978, respectively.
There’s nothing derivative about Dash’s work; every image, every moment is a full creation. And, for all its wonder, “Daughters of the Dust,” at two decades’ remove, packs a howl of loss for the world at large and for the movies that Dash should have been making since its release. Dash is one of the heroines of the modern cinema; the closed doors that she, as a black woman, has faced should resound with reproach to the industry and should be pointed to whenever nostalgists for the studio-backed midrange drama start their laments. Today’s system of independent financing isn’t perfect, but the independent-filmmaking scene has become much more vigorous since the nineteen-nineties. On the other hand, it’s worth keeping an eye on today’s great young first-time directors, seeing how they manage to keep going—and making some noise if they seem to be silent too long.