GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion is an American film director, writer and producer. Dash received her MFA in 1985 at the UCLA Film School and is one of the graduates and filmmakers known as the L.A. Rebellion. After she had written and directed several shorts, her 1991 feature Daughters of the Dust became the first full-length film directed by an African-American woman to obtain general theatrical release in the United States.Daughters of the Dust is a fictionalized telling of her father’s Gullah family who lived off the coast of the Southeastern United States. The film features black women’s stories, striking visuals shot on location and a non-linear narrative. It’s included in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for its cultural, historical and aesthetic significance.” Dash has written two books on Daughters of the Dust—a “making of” history co-written with Toni Cade Bambara and bell hooks, and a sequel, set 20 years after the film’s story.Daughters of the Dust was named one of the most significant films of the last 30 years, by IndieWire.Dash has worked in television since the late 1990s. Her television movies include Funny Valentines (1999), Incognito (1999), Love Song (2000), and The Rosa Parks Story (2002), starring Angela Bassett. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center commissioned Dash to direct Brothers of the Borderland in 2004, as an immersive film exhibit narrated by Oprah Winfrey following the path of women gaining freedom on the Underground Railroad. In 2017, Dash directed episodes of Queen Sugar on the Oprah Winfrey Network.At the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, it was announced Dash’s next project will be a biopic of civil rights icon Angela Davis, to be produced by Lionsgate. Today in our History – October 22, 1952 – Julie Ethel Dash (born October 22, 1952) was born.Dash was born on October 22, 1952 in Queens, New York, to Rhudine Henderson and Charles Edward Dash. She was raised in the Queensbridge Housing Project in Long Island City, Queens. She studied in 1969 at the Studio Museum of Harlem. As an undergraduate, she studied psychology until she was accepted into the film school at the Leonard Davis Center for the Performing Arts at City Colleges of New York, CCNY. In 1974, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Film Production. As a student, Dash wrote the script for a documentary for the New York Urban Coalition, entitled Working Models of Success.After graduating from CCNY, she moved to Los Angeles for graduate studies. She completed a 2-year Conservatory Fellowship in Producing/Writing at AFI Conservatory. There she studied under filmmakers including Jan Kadar, William Friedkin, and Slavko Vorkapich. She attended graduate school at the UCLA Film School and became one of a new generation of African and African-American filmmakers known as the “Black insurgents” or L.A. Rebellion.She directed Working Models of Success (1976), and the next year, produced Four Women (1975), a short dance film based on a song by Nina Simone. It won a Gold Medal for Women in Film in the 1978 Miami International Film Festival. As a graduate student at UCLA, she received an MFA in Film and Television Production. She directed the film Diary of an African Nun (1977). Screened at the Los Angeles Film Exposition, it earned a Director’s Guild Award for a Student Film.During film school, Dash was influenced by avant-garde, Latin American, African, and Russian cinema. Dash’s film work began to take on a new direction after film school. Dash said in a 1991 interview with the Village Voice, “I stopped making documentaries after discovering Toni Morrison, Toni Cade Bambara, and Alice Walker. I wondered, why can’t we see movies like this? I realized I needed to learn how to make narrative movies.” Being inspired by the novels of these black women authors led to her decision to direct dramatic films.Her 1975 short film Four Women is based on the ballad “Four Women” by Nina Simone. In the song, four women are portrayed (all by the dancer Linda Martina Young): Aunt Sarah, a slave, Saffronia, a mixed race woman, Sweet Thing, a prostitute, and Peaches, as a representation of black women overcoming racial and gender-specific forms of oppression. Stereotypes of black women are directly addressed, asking the audience to address their own biases and stereotypes.From 1978 to 1980, Dash worked as member of the Classifications and Ratings Administrations for the Motion Picture Association of America. She had a special assignment screening at the Cannes International Film Festival to review a screening of short films in the Marché du Cinema. She wrote and directed the short film Illusions (34 minutes), which explores racial and sexual discrimination in Hollywood and American society. Released in 1982, it was her first to earn more widespread success and attention. Set in 1942 in the fictional National Studios, it follows a black woman executive, Mignon Duprée, who has “passed” for white to achieve her position. Also featured is Ester Jeeter, a black woman who dubs the singing voice in musicals for a white Hollywood star. They work in an industry based on creating images and alternative realities. The film explores Mignon’s dilemma, Ester’s struggle to get roles as an actress and singer rather than dub for others, and the uses of cinema in wartime: three illusions in conflict with reality.Illusions received the 1985 Black American Cinema Society Award and the Black Filmmaker Foundation’s Jury Prize in 1989 as best film of the decade. Kevin Thomas of the LA Times described it as “a gripping critique of the power of the movies to shape perception,” while exploring the illusions created by Hollywood, as well as the illusion of racial identity. The success of this film and other shorts enabled Dash to move to feature films. In 2020, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”Dash began work on a story in 1975 that was inspired by her father’s Gullah family background and immigration from the Sea Islands of Georgia. This would become the screenplay Daughters of the Dust, which went into production after she received $800,000 in financing from PBS in 1988. The film, set in 1902, revolves around three generations of Gullah women in the Peazant family on St. Helena Island off the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina. Innovative with its use of Gullah dialogue and interwoven story-lines among the predominately female cast, the film focuses on ancestral and matriarchal story lines as well as the history of former slaves who settled on the island and formed an independent community there. The screenplay was written in the dialect of the island settlers with no subtitles, resulting in an immersive language experience.Dash’s experimental approach to narrative structure was something rarely seen in U.S. feature-filmmaking. Upon the film’s re-release, she explained, “I…wanted to do a film that was so deeply embedded in the culture, was so authentic to the culture that it felt like a foreign film.”Daughters of the Dust premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1991, where it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize and won a cinematography award. It became the first feature film by an African-American woman to be distributed in the United States in theatrical release and gained critical praise for its use of dialect and music composed by John Barnes, as well for its cinematography and visual imagery.The New York Times called Dash a “strikingly original film maker,” noting that “for all its harsh allusions to slavery and hardship, the film is an extended, wildly lyrical meditation on the power of African cultural iconography and the spiritual resilience of the generations of women who have been its custodians.”Despite the critical acclaim, Dash wasn’t able to get the financing to release another feature film, going on to work in television. Daughters of the Dust would continue to gain accolades for more than two decades. It was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2004 as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Its visuals would influence Beyoncé’s acclaimed 2016 video album Lemonade, featuring young women on the beach, dressed in white gowns as in the movie, and gathering in front of an island cabin.On its 25th anniversary, the Cohen Media Group restored and distributed Daughters of the Dust for theatrical release, beginning at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival. Other screenings in celebration of the Daughters of the Dust 25th anniversary included Honolulu Museum of Art, AFI Silver Theater, and ARRAY @ The Broad held in Los Angeles at Theater at Ace Hotel.Dash directed videos for musicians including Raphael Saadiq with Tony, Toni, Tone, Keb ‘Mo, Peabo Bryson, Adriana Evans, and Sweet Honey in the Rock. Her video for Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” was nominated for MTV’s Best Female Vocalist in 1996.In 1997, Dash wrote and directed an episode of Women: Stories of Passion for the Showtime Cable Network, as well as Sax Cantor Riff, one of HBO’s Subway Stories: Tales from the Underground for producers Jonathan Demme and Rosie Perez.Dash directed the television film Funny Valentines in 1999, an account of a well-to-do black woman’s retreat from a troubled New York marriage to the Deep South and her childhood past. Alfre Woodard, and executive producer on the film, asked Dash to get involved. Dash wrote the screenplays and directed the television movies Incognito (1999), a romantic thriller made by BET Arabesque Films; and Love Song (2000), an MTV movie starring the Grammy award-winning singer Monica.Actress and executive producer Angela Bassett asked Dash to direct the CBS biopic The Rosa Parks Story in 2002. The film follows Parks and her husband Raymond (Peter Francis James) as they deal with the issues of segregation, Jim Crow laws and second-class status in 1950s Alabama, leading up to Parks’ refusing to relinquish her seat on a city bus, leading to the Montgomery bus boycott. The Rosa Parks Story won several awards, including the NAACP Image Award for Best Television Movie. Dash was nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in the 55th Annual Directors Guild Awards—the first African-American woman nominated in the category of “Primetime Movies Made for Television”.In 2004 Dash made Brothers of the Borderland, a work commissioned by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Narrated by Oprah Winfrey, the film features the character of Alice, an escaped slave whose story represents an amalgamation of historic figures. The film is shown in the Harriet Tubman theater, named for the fugitive slave woman who helped many others escape to freedom.In December 2016, Dash guest hosted on Turner Classic Movies, appearing in wraparounds to discuss dozens of films on the channel.Dash joined the roster of female directors working on the second season of Ava DuVernay’s Queen Sugar on the OWN Network in 2017. Research more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!