WATCH: Pioneer Filmmaker Julie Dash Discusses her Rise as a Filmmaker

Pioneer filmmaker Julie Dash, director of the landmark independent film Daughters of the Dust, discusses her career as a screenwriter, director, and producer of socially and politically compelling content that focuses on the culture of African American women.  In this 2013 TIFF interview, Ms. Dash  discusses the very first film that she created with her mother in the middle of the night, how writers such as Toni Morrison, Toni Cade Bambara, and Alice Walker inspired her work, the LA Rebellion, and her rise to becoming the first African-American woman to have a full-length general theatrical release in the United States with her critically acclaimed film Daughters of the Dust.

“It was important for me to re-frame and redefine how we see ourselves in the media.  All they knew of African-American history was Roots, Sounder, and Gone with the Wind.  If it wasn’t speaking about African Americans in a historical piece, we were either picking cotton or in an urban setting.  The association with an African American historical drama was “slave;” however, there were so many other things that happened. ”  – Julie Dash

Many of the issues that Ms. Dash references from the 70’s regarding the infrequent/inaccurate depiction of African-American women in media still resonates today.  The landscape for women of color in film and television is certainly changing thanks to content by powerhouse women such as Shonda Rhimes, Dee Rees, and Ava DuVernay who are changing the narrative for women of color in front of and behind the camera; however, we are still grossly underrepresented in mainstream media.

Julie Dash is a legendary filmmaker who has paved the way for an entire generation of filmmakers who are pushing forward towards their artistic dreams.  As stated above, she broke barriers in 1992 by becoming the first African American woman to have a full-length general theatrical release in the United States with her film Daughters of the Dust.  In 1999, the 25th Annual Newark Black Film Festival honored Dash and Daughters of the Dust as being one of the most important cinematic achievements in Black Cinema in the 20th century.  In December 2004, The Library of Congress placed Daughters of the Dust in the National Film Registry where it joined 400 American films preserved as a National Treasures.

In addition to Daughters of the Dust, Ms. Dash has worked on films such Love Song with Monica and Tyrese, Funny Valentines with Alfre Woodard, and The Rosa Parks Story with Angela Bassett.  Her most recent project, Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl, chronicles the life journey of Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, a culinary anthropologist and griot.