Loaded with symbolism, beautiful visuals and poetic dialogue, Daughters of the Dust is captivating in parts and politically charged.
It was originally released 25 years ago, but its influence on Beyoncé’s celebrated Lemonade video last year has led to renewed interest and a reissue.
Set on a Caribbean Island in the early 20th century, the film centres on a small group of former slaves who are preparing to embark on the great migration north into the States. We are given an intimate view of the various relationships that are breaking up because of the move and ones which are made stronger by the search for freedom.
It is refreshing to see women at the centre of discussion, ideas and conflict and men generally in secondary roles.
White dresses, barren landscapes, mystical music and wild horses are just some of the many symbols of innocence, new beginnings, broken dreams and an escape from nowhere to the supposed land of freedom.
Moments of narration by the voice of a child who was not yet born but tells the story as if she were there, reinforce the notion of connecting to your roots.
The storyline weaves together different love affairs, family relations and struggles between those who were closer to the old slave masters and those who worked underneath them, highlighting how their oppression keeps them together but also pulls them apart.
However, the film is very slow and drags in parts, making it sometimes quite unengaging. The sheer amount of clichéd symbolism is repetitive and predictable. By the end I was left dissatisfied and with unanswered questions.
On the other hand, it was interesting to see the conflicting ideologies which the different characters latched onto in the hopes of finding support and freedom.
The film successfully illustrates the deep pain and anger engrained within the hearts and minds of black people who endured the horrors of the slave trade. The story talks about the battle to leave behind old ways of living and grasp the newfound hope which came with the glimpse of opportunity that the States would offer.
The film succeeds at showing the intricacies of how different belief systems impacted black people’s lives at such a critical point in history. It also captures well the struggle to forge an identity and maintain a connection with roots.
However, it sometimes fails to engage because it tries too hard to explain complex ideas by overcompensating with abstract artistic direction.
A quietly evocative film
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