Arts preview: "Daughters" restoration screens at the Wex

Jim Fischer
Julie Dash

Filmmaker Julie Dash is just glad the world will now get to see the "Daughters of the Dust" she made 25 years ago.

The Wexner Center for the Arts will premiere a new restoration of the landmark film this weekend, after which it will make the rounds on the summer festival circuit before a theatrical re-release this fall. "Daughters" was the first film by an African-American woman to get a wide theatrical release.

Dash's film provides still-revealing insights into the Gullah Geechee culture of formerly enslaved Africans and their descendants who lived along the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Set in the early 1900s, "Daughters" tells the story of the younger generation of the Peazant family as they prepare to leave the islands for the U.S. mainland.

"I felt we deserved something authentic to our tradition, something real," Dash said. "I was very eager to tackle the subject [and] to provide something very deeply authentic to the culture."

Reaction to the original release, Dash said, was mixed. "Everyone said they loved the way it looked, and then let's not talk any more about it," she said with a hint of a laugh. "People were surprised. They didn't know the history."

Nonetheless, "Daughters" was a hit at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival, earning cinematography honors, which Dash always found ironic, given the print of the film hadn't undergone all the necessary post-production corrections - and still hadn't, until Columbus' Cohen Film Collection acquired it last year.

"The original film was not properly color graded, and the print still needed some image cleanup and stabilization," Cohen film archivist Tim Lanza said. "You see it now, and it's just gorgeous. So many frames would make beautiful still photos."

"All I had to do was say yes" to the restoration, Dash said. "I was eager to have it done. This is a blessing."

"(The film has) been available to the public since its initial release but it has never looked like this," said David Filipi, the Wexner Center's director of film/video. "The beautiful camerawork by Arthur Jafa, which captures the exquisite costumes and colors of the landscape, has never looked better."

Dash will participate in a post-screening Q&A session following Friday's sold-out screening.

Wexner Center

for the Arts

7 p.m. Friday,

May 20 (sold out)

and Saturday, May 21

1871 N. High St.,