Tag Archives: Julie Dash

Filmmaker Interview: Julie Dash

I recently interviewed Julie Dash for Time Out Chicago. The version that appeared on their site was edited for length so I’m including the uncut version below.


Julie Dash’s landmark 1991 indie film Daughters of the Dust, the first feature directed by an African-American woman to receive a theatrical release, has been the subject of renewed interest this year due to the fact that it’s a major reference point in Beyoncé’s “visual album” Lemonade. Daughters has been newly restored for its 25th anniversary and will receive a one-week theatrical re-release at the Gene Siskel Film Center beginning on Friday, November 25. I recently spoke to Dash about the film when she was in town for the Chicago International Film Festival.

MGS: Tell me about this beautiful new restoration of Daughters of the Dust. I read that you didn’t properly color time it when it was originally released.

JD: Correct. We didn’t have enough money to continue. Because back in the analog days, every answer print – you know, the whole: answer print, answer print, answer print to release print? – we got to the second answer print and that was $20,000. And it was like “Enough!” I mean, at this point, let’s get this show on the road! We can’t go any further. It was the cost. And so that answer print did not look like the work print we worked on. The work print looked better.

MGS: Were you personally involved in the new restoration?

JD: We brought back in A.J. (cinematographer Arthur Jafa) to sit with the people timing it and doing the scan. And – whoo! – we got it just in time. The original elements were starting to deteriorate. There was some shrinkage in some areas. They scanned it twice in 2K. We couldn’t afford 4K. Once again! (laughing) Here we go again!

MGS: It’s great that it’s getting re-released theatrically.

JD: That was not even on my agenda. That came as an utter and complete wonderful surprise. I just wanted it scanned and I just wanted a Blu-ray, you know? And we had it done. And then… Lemonade (Beyonce’s “visual album,” which owes a strong stylistic debt to Dash’s film). And it was like, “Wow. This is wonderful. This is great stuff.” And people were saying, “Well, what is Daughters of the Dust? What is this thing?” And I was like, “Yeah, we have it. We’re planning to release it on Blu-ray.” And then Tim (Lanza of Cohen Media) called and said he had a conversation with Charles Cohen. I hadn’t met him yet, Cohen. And they decided: “Let’s do a re-release.” I was like, “In the theaters?” (laughing) When they started looking at the analytics and when Daughters of the Dust started trending on Twitter, it was like “What is this? Wow.” I don’t really see the precedent for this because it’s not like it’s Lawrence of Arabia.

MGS: But it is a seminal film!

JD: Yeah, but there’s no precedent for it. The Shirley Clarke films? Yeah, okay. But, for me, it was just not on my radar to do that. And I was like, “Yeah. Sure!”

MGS: This re-release makes me happy because Daughters of the Dust is a film that was really ahead of its time.

JD: It came at a time when everyone, in terms of independent filmmakers and artists and experimental filmmakers, we were all looking for new ways of telling stories. I said, “I’m going to create this griot story structure – like the way an African griot would recall and recount a family’s history – and I’m going to write this.” And everything was all good and hunky-dory and great. And then (when it was originally released) people were like, “Well, this is like a foreign film.” And I think the wider general audience, they were more open to it than the established – how should I say it? – the curators of culture.

MGS: Including critics?

JD: Yeah. The curators of culture were saying, “This is a difficult film.” Difficult? It’s straightforward! They come and say goodbye, it’s a picnic, and then they go on. It’s the Great Migration, you know what I mean? The Industrial Revolution.

MGS: But it’s not plot-driven. It doesn’t go from point A to point B to point C.

JD: Yeah, it’s not binary. It’s not “This then that.” But don’t they teach you in film schools not to do “This then that?”

MGS: Yeah, especially if you want to be an independent filmmaker!

JD: Why?! We have the binary already. And it’s not something that, at the end of film, I say, “I was just kidding!” In anything that really has to do with another culture that’s not Western, it’s taken as something scary or something to be feared or something that’s being subversive. No, I’m just saying, “Look, hey, man, this is what’s out there.” (In islands off the coast of South Carolina at the turn of the 20th century) Muslims were still practicing their religion, there was West African religions being practiced, there was Christianity, there was Protestantism, all these things were happening. I didn’t create this! It’s there if you want to look at it.

MGS: And it’s still there today.

JD: Exactly. Let’s talk about it. These survivals, these retention patterns, let’s look at them. People look at retention patterns in Roanoke and it’s not scary. So look at all these islands where these people were pure African in many ways. It’s like, “Well, we don’t want to talk about that.”

MGS: The film was also ahead of its time in terms of the subject matter because you’re dealing with the aftermath of slavery, which was not a fashionable subject in cinema in 1991.

JD: I was dealing with the first generation of freeborn African Americans heading towards the Industrial Revolution. I thought that was a great idea. (Chuckles) Instead of showing the whip marks on someone’s back or something, I just made their hands blue. Everyone who was once a slave, their hands were blue from working in the indigo fields. And how is that subversive? I thought it was straightforward. People were saying “Why did you make it so difficult?”

MGS: It’s not difficult but it avoids formulas and stereotypes.

JD: That’s what we’re tasked to do, right? To find other ways of saying the same thing, to find visual metaphors of what we already know so it will have more of an impact and we’ll go “A-ha!” Because, after you watch a couple slave movies, someone’s getting whipped and you become anesthetized. But when you see someone’s hands are blue, you go, “Oh shit! That was some rough work.” And I just wanted people to see it wasn’t just about picking cotton and someone blowing a harmonica. And so the music was totally different too. I’m really proud of John Barnes’ score because he and I sat down together and talked about what’s the sound of New-World music. What came before jazz? He brought in an Iranian santur player, a Pakistani drummer, a Nigerian talking drummer and Santeria, some Cuban singers and dancers. They were recording and dancing at the same time because they couldn’t sing the Santeria songs without dancing.

MGS: You should’ve filmed the recording sessions.

JD: Who knew? Who knew? These were the sounds that we imagined these Africans heard during the Middle Passage because those slave ships were comprised of not just Americans; they were British, Irish, Dutch, Indian, Islamic. There were all kinds of people upstairs. It was three months. What did they do? They sang, they probably played flutes, they had drums. There was a sound that they heard. We created a New-World sound comprised of all these different sounds and instruments just to make it totally immersive and different and to shock you into thinking new thoughts about historical events and issues.

MGS: I read an interview where you said this film was like science fiction.

JD: Yeah, they’re “what-if” scenarios. What if they heard it like this? Rather than just go the same old harmonica route, I was determined I was not going to have a harmonica or a banjo. You know that sound.

MGS: Yeah, it comes from other movies. I’m from North Carolina and I can’t stand to hear a fake southern accent in a movie. Actors doing southern accents always talk like they’re in Gone with the Wind but nobody talks like that in the South.

JD: Gone with the Wind! People from Mississippi speak different from people in Alabama and North Carolina and South Carolina. And you have the Gullah/Geechee dialect, which sounds like Nigerian. The first time I heard it, I walked into a 7-11, as an adult, and I walked in and these guys were talking and I couldn’t understand a word of what they were talking about. And they quickly stopped and went into English because everyone was always hiding if you were an outsider. My grandmother would even say a few things and you’d go, “What did you say?” They wouldn’t share anything because they loved the fact that they had this information but at the same time they’d been told over and over and over that to be a Geechee was to be the lowest of the low in African-American society. If you wanted to insult someone, you called them “low-down Geechee.”

MGS: It’s probably not the same today though, right?

JD: No. It has changed. A lot has changed since Daughters of the Dust too. Take a look at Charles Fuller’s A Soldier’s Story. Norman Jewison directed the film. It explains it all. It’s set in World War II among black soldiers. One of them was a Geechee who had to be killed because it was time that the Negro race uplifted itself and you couldn’t have those Geechees around. (Laughing) Wow.

MGS: I’d like to ask you about the costumes. They’re very elaborate for an independent film. Was it difficult to recreate period clothes on a low budget?

JD: We had people who sewed in Savannah, we had people sewing all over the place. I had access to a bunch of photographs that were housed at the Penn Center on St. Helena Island. If we had more money, I would’ve been able to make the hats that went along with it. They had black hats – this shiny kind of straw hat but flattop and maybe a ribbon coming off of it or something. We just couldn’t.

MGS: And those photographs were your visual reference for the costumes?

JD: Yes, and also to place them on the beach. Because when I originally wrote it I had them under a big tree – a little trope-ish – and I was like, “Oh! They’re in the sand dunes?” So we shifted to the sand dunes. Just in Mill Valley a few weeks ago, I had several questions about the costumes. People kept saying, “Why are they wearing white dresses?” Once again, that goes back to Gone with the Wind. People are fixated, in a very myopic way, on how African Americans look in historical drama and there’s no reference point where you see them except if you look at – now they have so many historical books and you can see the pictures and they all had the white dresses on. They were seamstresses. So I made sure that all of the dresses that they were wearing, these Gibson Girl-like dresses, were at least 10 to 15 years older, late 1800s style rather than 1902. They were hand-me-downs. They were old and yellowing, some were kind of torn and raggedy. Because they only had two outfits: that would be their summer/Sunday/go-to-meeting outfit. And then you’d have your everyday/work outfit. This was a special day. This was a celebration: it was coming together to say goodbye so everybody was dressed up in their Sunday/go-to-meeting. And that’s usually the same dress that you’re buried in too. Same thing with the suits with the men: they were purposely done so it was like, “This wasn’t made for him. He acquired this.” And the kids really got raggedy. But a lot of people still have problems with the costumes because, in their minds, they’re fixated on the “Mammy” dress and the headwrap, the do-rag, which is not even accurate. There’s so much that’s inaccurate but it’s the standard and so we’re here to change all that. And I think it’s more interesting to see things that are actually different.

MGS: The use of slow-motion is incredible. Did you shoot that in-camera?

JD: Oh, you noticed it? Yes, we had a camera that was a prototype. Sometimes someone would be walking, then she’d wait, then it goes into slow-motion (in the middle of a shot). The speed-aperture control thing used to keep freezing on us. We had a hair-dryer we had to keep putting on it because of the humidity down there because of the ocean. So it would shut down. But that variable-speed motor – it was called speed aperture computer at the time – now they have it together but it was a prototype at the time. That was part of the – I don’t want to say “magic” – but of the voodoo of it, the science fiction. It’s almost imperceptible: someone’s moving and then the motion changes. It does have a visceral effect. It’s like visual dubstep.



In today’s Cine-File, I review Koji Fukada’s Harmonium, the best Japanese film I’ve seen in years. In this week’s Time Out Chicago, I have capsule reviews of Daughters of the Dust and Moonlight. All three reviews can be read in their entirety below:


What to See During the Second Week of the Chicago International Film Festival

The Chicago International Film Festival continues this week with daily screenings through October 27. My best bets for the second week are a pair of features, one old and one new, from this year’s impressive Black Perspectives category.

Julie Dash, one of the key members of the “L.A. Rebellion” school of black filmmakers that includes Charles Burnett and Haile Gerima, will attend this year’s CIFF to present a restored 25th anniversary version of her seminal feature, Daughters of the Dust. Unlike her male counterparts, who directed their first features in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Dash’s independent breakthrough feature wasn’t completed until 1991. It was worth the wait: Daughters of the Dust is a uniquely poetic and moving film about members of the Gullah culture, former slaves and their descendants living on the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina at the turn of the 20th century. The focus is on one family in particular, the Peazants, as they plan on leaving their island home and immigrating to the mainland for good—but Daughters is primarily a non-narrative experience, one based more on African folklore traditions than traditional Western storytelling. Dash creates indelible images of the family’s female members frolicking on the beach in period costume, their movements abstracted by slow-motion cinematography. These images are accompanied by the lyrical voice-over narration of Nana, the matriarch of the family, and her “unborn” great-great granddaughter, both of whom ruminate on the importance of tradition and memory.

Although Chicagoans will have plenty of chances to see it when it opens in wide release on Friday, October 28, the local premiere of Moonlight will occur two days earlier at CIFF. Writer and director Barry Jenkins’ second feature, a follow-up to his acclaimed micro-budget debut Medicine and Melancholy from 2008, is my favorite American film of the year. It uses a unique tripartite structure to tell the story of a young man’s search for his own identity across three different periods of his life (each of which corresponds to a different name or nickname: childhood/”Little,” adolescence/Chiron, and adulthood/”Black”). As in Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There, the fact that the three exceptional actors who portray the central character (including Chicago’s own Ashton Sanders) do not particularly look alike works to the film’s advantage; it forces viewers to reconcile the philosophical notion of an individual “containing multitudes.” This quiet, heartrending portrait of what it’s like to grow up gay, black and poor in America today is also made with an impressive command of film form (Jenkins has cited Claire Denis and Hou Hsiao-Hsien as influences on his lush and tactile images) that is all-too-rare among contemporary independent filmmakers.

Daughters of the Dust screens on October 23. Moonlight screens on October 26. For more information, including ticket info and showtimes, visit www.chicagofilmfestival.com.


Cine-File “Crucial Viewing”

Koji Fukada’s HARMONIUM (New Japanese)
A deserving winner of the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard sidebar at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Koji Fukada’s meticulous slow-burn thriller is an impressive feat of screenwriting, directing, and acting. Toshio (Kanji Furatachi) is a seemingly contented small-business owner and family man with a loving wife and daughter. When his old friend Yasaka (a sinister Tadanobu Asano) is released from prison, Toshio extends a helping hand by hiring the deceptively polite young man to work in his factory and live in his home. Slowly and insidiously, Yasaka causes cracks to appear between members of the family as he brings a dark secret from Toshio’s past to light (in many ways, the film’s narrative trajectory is the opposite of Takashi Miike’s VISITOR Q, where a strange houseguest used murder to bring a dysfunctional family closer together). Not many filmmakers would be able to pull off Fukada’s bolder cinematic conceits (a symbolic use of the color red, an unexpected leap-forward in time, an abrupt and daringly ambiguous ending) but every such decision seems pressed to the service of illustrating a karmic cycle of crime, punishment, and redemption that feels firmly rooted in believable character psychology and a realistic social milieu. This haunting film is one of the great Japanese exports of recent years. (2016, 118 min, DCP Digital) MGS

An African-American Cinema Primer

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, today’s post is an African-American cinema primer. This list is not meant to be exhaustive (for one thing, I’m limiting myself to one film per director) but here are 10 essential movies made by African-American filmmakers that I think have valuable things to say about black life in America. I hope this will serve as a useful starting point for anyone interested in exploring African-American cinema.

Within Our Gates (Micheaux, 1920)


The only films made by African Americans prior to Gordon Parks helming The Learning Tree for Warner Brothers in 1969 — much to the shame of the major Hollywood studios — were independently financed. The most important black filmmaker in the first half of the 20th century was Oscar Micheaux, who directed over 40 films in a career spanning 30 years in both the silent and sound eras. The incendiary drama Within Our Gates was Micheaux’s second film and is the earliest surviving feature directed by an African American. Sylvia Landry Evelyn Preer) is a young Chicago woman who endeavors to raise money to save a school for black children in the rural south. Much like The Birth of a Nation, Micheaux’s story alternates between scenes taking place in the north and south, and also cuts back and forth between action occurring in separate time frames in order to generate a suspenseful climax — a lengthy flashback to the events that led to Sylvia’s adoptive parents being lynched by an angry white mob. This lynching scene is intercut with an equally horrifying scene where a villainous middle-aged white man attempts to rape the young Sylvia before recognizing a scar on her chest that identifies her as his own illegitimate daughter. The complex and clever intercutting of this climax intentionally unpacks the racist ideology of Griffith’s film by showing the historical reality of who really did the lynching. Within Our Gates was thought to be a lost movie until a single print was discovered in Spain (under the title La Negra) in the late 1970s. Restored by The Library of Congress in 1993, it is now available on DVD via Grapevine Video.

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (Van Peebles, 1971)


“. . . Sire, these lines are not a homage to brutality that the artist has invented, but a hymn from the mouth of reality . . .” So reads a fitting quote at the beginning of Melvin Van Peebles’ groundbreaking third film, one that he financed independently (which included a $50,000 assist from Bill Cosby) when Columbia Pictures balked at the proposed storyline. Van Peebles himself stars as “Sweetback,” an L.A.-based gigolo who beats up some racist cops for harassing a Black Panther and then flees to Mexico with help from members of the black community (who are collectively credited as “starring” in the movie in the opening credits). This film bears roughly the same relation to 1970s blaxploitation cinema that John Carpenter’s Halloween bears to 1980s slasher flicks: it almost singlehandedly kickstarted a dubious subgenre after becoming a surprise commercial phenomenon (although none of the movies that followed in its wake arguably matched it for subversive political content). And while its still debatable as to whether the copious, unsimulated sex scenes are necessary (Van Peebles contracted gonorrhea while shooting one scene and was able to get “worker’s comp” from the DGA for being “hurt on the job” — money that he promptly sunk back into the budget), it’s important to remember that cinematic depictions of black American males prior to this had always been meek and asexual. A fascinating relic of its era that still feels revolutionary today.

Cooley High (Schultz, 1975)


This terrific high school movie — made in Chicago in 1975 but taking place in 1964 — is often referred to as the “black American Graffiti.” It’s so good that I wish American Graffiti were referred to as the “white Cooley High.” Like George Lucas’ beloved period piece, this low budget indie looks back nostalgically and humorously on a more innocent time by focusing on a group of teenagers at the end of a school year — and features an equally amazing soundtrack (nearly all Motown) to boot. Best friends Preach (Glynn Turman) and Cochise (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) cut class, crash a party, chase women, shoot craps, inadvertently get mixed up with the law after unknowingly going for a joyride in a stolen Cadillac, etc. All the while, their friendship is tested by their divergent career paths: the literary Preach, a character modeled on screenwriter Eric Monte (who grew up in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project), dreams of becoming a successful writer, an ambition that Cochise doesn’t understand. This was directed by Michael Schultz, a former theater director who does wonders with a cast of mostly unknowns. It also features arguably the greatest use of Chicago locations of any picture shot in my fair city.

Killer of Sheep (Burnett, 1979)


The directorial debut of UCLA film school grad Charles Burnett (it was his Master’s thesis), Killer of Sheep is one of the greatest American films of the 1970s. This plotless examination of the lives of a handful of residents of South Central Los Angeles served as a conscious rebuttal to the negative stereotypes of African Americans then prevalent in the American cinema. Effortlessly alternating between comedy and tragedy, as well as realistic and poetic modes, Burnett’s episodic narrative focuses primarily on Stan (Henry Gayle Sanders), a slaughterhouse worker who struggles to provide for his wife and children. Though this impresses because of its insider’s view of life in a working class black neighborhood in the mid-1970s, the scenes of children goofing off, throwing rocks at one another, and playing in railroad yards never fail to bring tears to my eyes because of how much they remind me of my own childhood growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina in the 1980s (where we played in abandoned houses and often engaged in “dirt clod” wars). The awesome soundtrack provides a virtual audio tour through 20th century black American music, from Paul Robeson to Louis Armstrong to Little Walter to Earth, Wind and Fire.

The Killing Floor (Duke, 1984)


Bill Duke is best known for his work as a character actor (with scene-stealing cameos and supporting roles in everything from Predator to Menace II Society) but he’s also carved out a distinguished if regrettably little-known parallel career as a film director. This invisibility is in part because, like Charles Burnett, his filmography spans the disparate worlds of Hollywood, independent and made-for-television movies; even many of the people who admire this auteur’s work are unaware that what they are fans of are actually “Bill Duke films.” My favorite of his movies are the 1992 neo-noir Deep Cover and the 1984 T.V. film The Killing Floor, which tells the true story of the migration of one black man, Frank Custer (Damien Leake), from the rural south to Chicago in the early 20th century. Upon arrival in the Second City he becomes involved in labor struggles involving a controversial and newly formed union, and eventually witnesses the notorious race riots of 1919. This is a terrific history lesson, a compelling drama and a lovingly recreated period piece all rolled into one. Duke identified it as one of his own favorite movies when I interviewed him in 2013.

Do the Right Thing (Lee, 1989)


Spike Lee’s long and prolific career has been maddeningly uneven but he is also, in the words of his idol Billy Wilder, a “good, lively filmmaker.” Lee’s best and liveliest film is probably his third feature, 1989’s Do the Right Thing, which shows racial tensions coming to a boil on the hottest day of the year in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Lee himself stars as Mookie, a black deliveryman working for a white-owned pizzeria in a predominantly black community. A series of minor conflicts between members of the large ensemble cast (including Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Giancarlo Esposito and John Turturro) escalates into a full-blown race riot in the film’s unforgettable climax. While the movie is extremely political, it is also, fortunately, no didactic civics lesson: Lee is able to inspire debate about hot-button issues without providing any easy or reassuring answers. This admirable complexity is perhaps best exemplified by two seemingly incompatible closing-credits quotes — by Martin Luther King and Malcolm X — about the ineffectiveness and occasional necessity of violence, respectively. It is also much to Lee’s credit that, as provocative and disturbing as the film at times may be, it is also full of great humor and warmth, qualities perfectly brought out by the ebullient cast and the exuberant color cinematography of Ernest Dickerson.

Daughters of the Dust (Dash, 1991)


Julie Dash is part of the “L.A. Rebellion” school of black filmmakers along with her fellow UCLA graduates Charles Burnett, Billy Woodberry and Larry Clark. But unlike her male counterparts, all of whom directed their first features in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Dash’s independent breakthrough feature wasn’t completed and released until 1991 (it was, in fact, the first feature-length movie directed by an African-American woman). It was also worth the wait: Daughters of the Dust is a uniquely poetic and moving film about members of the Gullah culture, former slaves and their descendants who live on the Sea Islands off of the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia. More specifically, Dash’s movie centers on one Gullah family, the Peazants, as they plan on leaving the islands behind and immigrating to the mainland for good at the turn of the 20th century. The film is primarily a non-narrative experience, one that Dash claims is based more on African folklore traditions rather than Western storytelling: characters in period costume frolic on the beach, their movements abstracted by slow-motion cinematography, images frequently accompanied by poetic voice-over narration about the importance of tradition and memory. Regrettably, this is also Dash’s last theatrical feature to date.

One False Move (Franklin, 1992)


Three drug dealers/killers — two men and one woman — pull off a big score in L.A. and then head across the country to the small town of Star City, Arkansas. Two L.A. cops, aware of the trio’s plan, beat them to their destination and must work there with the local-yokel sheriff in order to apprehend the criminals. The always welcome, perennially underrated character actor Bill Paxton has arguably his best role as Sheriff Dale “Hurricane” Dixon, a man who seems overly eager to have the chance to crack an important case alongside of the big city cops. What starts off as a compelling neo-noir, however, gradually deepens into something much richer and more complex as layers are peeled back from each of the characters, some of whom prove to be connected in unexpected ways. The screenplay was co-written by Tom Epperson and a pre-Sling Blade Billy Bob Thornton (who also co-stars as one of the crooks). The taut direction is by Carl Franklin who, as a result of this, landed the plum assignment of helming the Denzel Washington-starring Devil in a Blue Dress. But I would argue that the independently made One False Move, which makes no false moves, remains the director’s finest hour.

Menace II Society (Hughes/Hughes, 1993)


Menace II Society is by far the best of the early 90s “hood movies,” which essentially transposed classic Hollywood gangster film tropes to contemporary urban black neighborhoods. The auspicious directing debut of twin brothers Allen and Albert Hughes (and still their best movie to date) follows Caine (Tyrin Turner), a recent high school grad and hustler, and his charismatic but crazy sidekick O-Dog (Larenz Tate) as they navigate life on the mean streets of Watts over the course of one long and deadly summer. This is much more violent and less obviously moralistic than John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood, the film that had kickstarted the genre two years earlier, and consequently generated much controversy upon its first release. Seen today, it’s much easier to view it as the intelligent cautionary tale and social critique that the filmmakers intended.

Eve’s Bayou (Lemmons, 1997)


Kasi Lemmons wrote and directed this singular fever dream of a movie about a woman looking back on her childhood growing up on the Louisiana bayou in the late 1960s. It begins with the title character narrating as an offscreen adult how she “killed” her father the summer that she turned 10-years-old. Much like John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley, this is a great “memory film” that introduces viewers to the cast of a large, colorful family through the subjective reminiscences of its youngest member. Samuel L. Jackson, who also produced, gives one of his finest performances as Louis, a handsome doctor and the patriarch of the Batiste family. His extra-marital dalliances, which cause his family grief even as they put up with his roguish behavior, ultimately lead to tragedy. Among several interwoven story threads is one involving Louis’ sister and her practice of witchcraft, and another involving a disturbingly ambiguous treatment of incest. I’ve heard it said that female filmmakers are less concerned with narrative logic than their male counterparts, and more concerned with the poetry of emotions. Whether or not that’s true, Eve’s Bayou is an unusually poetic narrative in the best possible sense.

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