Let's take a moment to thank Beyoncé. It's always a good idea in general, but for this instance especially. Daughters of the Dust, a restoration of Julie Dash's long out-of-print 1991 film, was already in the works when Lemonade dropped, but the decision to speed it back into theaters surely had something to do with the way it was such an unmissable influence on Beyoncé's visual album.
In particular, there's that whole black-and-white sequence in Lemonade in which women like Zendaya and Amandla Stenberg gather in long white dresses under and perched in the boughs of a tree, a direct quotation of a scene from Dash's film. But the ties go deeper than visuals. With Lemonade, Beyoncé clearly aimed to do what Dash already had — to make a lyrical, fiery work speaking to the complexity of black womanhood, to generational ties and a connection to the land, and to anguish of the past and hope for the future.
Daughters of the Dust is a dreamlike movie about the Peazants, a Gullah family who prepare to leave their home on St. Helena Island, off the South Carolina coast in 1902, migrating north for what they hope will be better opportunities. There's more richness to it — to its treatment of faith, to its look at the Great Migration, to the welcomes its returning granddaughters receive, among them the "fallen" Yellow Mary (Barbara-O) — than one viewing can reveal. And then there's the extravagant beauty of its cast, walking on the beach, visiting graves, and gathering for one last supper. It's a beauty that the film's original theatrical release — Dash was the first black female filmmaker to get a proper one — didn't fully reflect. As archivist Tim Lanza told the New York Times, the restoration included working with cinematographer Arthur Jafa to correct the color grading. "The big issue for Julie and A.J. was capturing the variety of African-American skin tones. That was not something presented in the first version available," he said. Now everyone has a chance to catch this historic film as its creator intended.
How to see it: Daughters of the Dust is playing in select theaters around the country.