RogerEbert.com publisher Chaz Ebert will be hosting a screening of Julie Dash's 1991 masterpiece, "Daughters of the Dust" at 7pm this Saturday, August 21st, which will kick-off the Gene Siskel Film Center's Chicago Favorites Film Series. The series consists of eight films curated by a cross-section of notable Chicagoans including Steve James, Dr Allison Arwady and Ayana Contreras, among others. Dash’s portrait of a Gullah family living on the sea islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia circa 1902 is visual poetry of the highest order, illustrating how this particular community kept the culture of their ancestors alive, while being among the first generation of African-Americans who were “born free.” Scars of slavery are detected in hands stained permanently blue by indigo. Though Aunt Viola (Cheryl Lynn Bruce) commissions a photographer to chart her family’s trip to the mainland—a journey to modern civilization that will ironically leave them less well off—she eventually finds that her adopted way of life cannot fill the spiritual void within her companion. There’s also a Native American inhabitant of the islands who resisted marching with his family to a destination deceptively promised as “a better place.”
The version of Dash's film set to screen this weekend has been restored by Kino Lorber (in conjunction with UCLA) for the first time with proper color grading overseen by cinematographer AJ Jafa. "Before there was Beyonce, or Lemonade, there was Ms. Dash, Ms Julie Dash and her luxuriously elegant film about Gullahs living in coastal South Carolina," noted Chaz. "She led the way for other female directors. And to this day I find her film one that feeds all the senses, a true classic. It is truly one of my favorite films. My late husband, Roger Ebert, called it a 'a tone poem of old memories, a family album in which all of the pictures are taken on the same day.' He went on to say that 'at certain moments we are not sure exactly what is being said or signified, but by the end we understand everything that happened -- not in an intellectual way, but in an emotional way.'"
The Chicago Favorites Series continues on Saturday, August 28th, with Robert Altman's "Nashville," hosted by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Steve James ("Hoop Dreams," "Life Itself"); followed by Lana & Lilly Wachowski's "Jupiter Ascending" in 35mm on Wednesday, September 1st, hosted by LaSaia Wade, Founder and Executive Director of Brave Space Alliance; Steven Soderbergh's "Contagion" on Saturday, September 4th, hosted by Dr. Allison Arwady, MD, MPH, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health; Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain" in 35mm on Thursday, September 9th, hosted by Jon Carr, Executive Producer of The Second City; Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" on Saturday, September 11th, hosted by Ashley Wheater, MBE, The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director of The Joffrey Ballet; Wes Anderson's "Rushmore," on Monday, September 13th, hosted by Ed Siskel, Gene Siskel Film Center Advisory Board member; and Edmond T. Gréville's "Princesse Tam-Tam" on Saturday, September 18th, hosted by Ayana Contreras, host of Reclaimed Soul on WBEZ and Vocalo Radio.
"Recently, during a long-awaited and much needed dinner with friends, we got to talking about the films we had all watched at home while Chicago was locked down," said Rebecca Fons, Director of Programming at the Siskel Center. "Guilty pleasures, comfort food, deep dives into filmmakers - everyone had watched a lot of movies. The conversation then turned to our favorite films, and a friend I'd known for years floored me with his pick. Knowing his choice, and why it meant so much to him, gave me an entirely new perspective on this person I'd known for years - his story behind the cinematic story was as special as the film itself. For our Chicago Favorites series, we invite you to get to know select notable Chicagoans through the perspective of their favorite films."
"From a seminal title from their childhood, to a film that speaks to their identity or lived experience, from pure big screen entertainment to canonical, vital contributions to film history, these films articulate the diversity of our city, and of cinema," Fons continues. "Our guest curators will either introduce each film or engage in a post-screening talkback, and we look forward to welcoming you to this series that celebrates the films they hold dear. Perhaps you will purchase a ticket because one of these films is your favorite as well, or - through the eyes of our Chicago Favorites - you'll see the film, or them, in a new and wonderful way."
For tickets to Saturday's "Daughters of the Dust" screening, click here, and for the full lineup and showtimes for the Chicago Favorites Film Series, visit the official site of the Gene Siskel Film Center.