13 May 2003 | abby-lorts
Beautiful to look at, Poorly Done
Besides being visually gorgeous to look at, I am having trouble finding positive things to say about Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust. My biggest problem with understanding Daughters of the Dust was the continuity. Obviously there was no change of costume, there was only the one meal, and no one ever seemed to have slept, so this would make me think that it all takes place in one day. However, because of the poor continuity in editing, when the film was over I really found myself guessing what was going on. It must have been difficult shooting where they did, St. Helena Island, and with a smaller budget, but the frequent change of sunlight really threw me off. I'm not just talking about the storm scenes, but towards the end of the film it seems like they had trouble with clouds moving in and out. It also seemed like some of the last shots were edited together without paying much attention to the lighting changes. Also, along with continuity editing, characters disappeared and reappeared extremely infrequently. For example, the American Indian that was seeing Iona just took off towards the beginning of the film, and we don't see him again until the last few minutes of the film. He was obviously not a main character of the film, but are we really supposed to feel something when Iona runs off with someone we have little/no feeling for? It wasn't just this side story that we were given little insight into, but all characters. Instead of letting us deep inside of fewer characters and their lives, we were exposed to several characters, and we were given very little insight into who they were. This kept the film very shallow and somewhat meaningless for me. I couldn't find any sort of central plot. There were several little sub plots, that didn't go very far, and all ended with the splitting of the family into those who stayed on the island and those who went to the mainland. And then we're cut off. All we know is they never see each other again. So, we're given little to no plot, no deep or meaningful insight into the characters, and a rather abrupt and unsatisfying ending. I'd argue that Daughters of the Dust is a poetic film before ever calling it a narrative. The film had a poetic feel to it, with the beautiful scenery, the language used, and especially the music. That (horrible) harp music that was constantly repeated over and over again could be interpreted as poetic. However, the African tribal music that was used was also very poetic sounding, exotic and rhythmically speaking.