Early life and educationDash was born on October 22, 1952, in Queens, New York (state), New York, to Rhudine Henderson and Charles Edward Dash. She graduated from Jamaica High school then went on to receive a B.A. in film production from City Colleges of New York in 1974. She was raised in the Queensbridge Houses, Queensbridge Housing Project in Long Island City, Long Island City, Queens. She studied in 1969 at the Studio Museum of Harlem. As an Undergraduate degree, 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 Ján Kadár, William Friedkin, and Slavko Vorkapich. She attended graduate school at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, UCLA Film School and became one of a new generation of African and African Americans, African-American filmmakers known as the "Black insurgents" or L.A. Rebellion."Daughters of the Dust"
Early careerDuring 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.
Four Women (1975)Her 1975 short film ''Four Women (1978 film), Four Women'' is based on the ballad Four Women (song), “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. The first character shown is Aunt Sarah who wears a long dress and represents slavery. The next character is Saffronia who wears a black dress and a black veil. She is a mixed-race woman who is the product of her mother being raped by a white man. The next character, Sweet Thing, is a prostitute. She wears a floral print dress and she is no longer covered by a veil. The last character is Peaches, who represents a black woman who has been toughened by generations of oppression. She wears cornrows, a brightly colored tube top, and matching pants. The overall message of this short is to show the different struggles that many black women are subjected to. 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.
Illusions (1982)She wrote and directed the short film ''Illusions by Julie Dash, Illusions'' (34 minutes), which explores Racial discrimination, racial and Sexual orientation discrimination, 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 "passing (racial identity), 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 (film critic), 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 Race (human categorization), 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 United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."Thomas, Kevin. (January 22, 1985
''Daughters of the Dust'' (1991)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 Saint Helena Island (South Carolina), 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.Kempley, Rita. (February 28, 1992
Styles and themesDash started making films around the time of the L.A. Rebellion at UCLA which trained many young black filmmakers who all had their own aesthetic visions, however, they all sought a vision of black authenticity. The L.A. Rebellion at UCLA produced many prominent filmmakers who were determined to reimagine the media production process while uplifting and sharing authentically black stories. The films that they were making could serve as both entertainment and education. Julie Dash who was a major influence and participant of the L.A. Rebellion had a common theme in her work which was showcasing the lives of black women and the struggles that they faced. The themes in her films coincide with the idea that the L.A. rebellion was rebelling against. Which was how black people would be portrayed in film following the rise in popularity of blaxploitation films. Not only did Dash's films showcase the lives of black people, but her work was also more primarily focused on the lives of black women and the struggles that are unique to black women. When making films she aims to say things that need to be said while saying it in a different way that hasn't been done before. In the video titled Julie Dash- The Reelback interview on YouTube, she says that her personal filmmaking mission statement is to redefine how we see African-American women on the screen. She wants to show their wants, their needs, their desires, their joys, their sorrows because all of the things that Dash was seeing bore little to no relation to the people she knew or the women who raised her. She wanted to change that because she wanted to see African-American women portrayed differently on the screen.
Music videosDash directed videos for musicians including Raphael Saadiq with Tony! Toni! Toné!, Tony, Toni, Tone, Keb' Mo', Keb ‘Mo, Peabo Bryson, Adriana Evans, and Sweet Honey in the Rock. Her video for Tracy Chapman, Tracy Chapman's “Give Me One Reason” was nominated for MTV’s Best Female Vocalist in 1996.
TelevisionIn 1997, Dash wrote and directed an episode of ''Women: Stories of Passion'' for the Showtime (TV network), 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 Wealth, well-to-do black woman's retreat from a troubled New York (state), 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, Grammy award-winning singer Monica (entertainer), 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 Racial segregation, segregation, Jim Crow laws and Second-class citizen, second-class status in 1950s Alabama, leading up to Parks' refusing to relinquish her seat on a Transit bus, city bus, leading to the Montgomery bus boycott. ''The Rosa Parks Story'' won several awards, including the NAACP Image Awards, NAACP Image Award for Best Television Movie.Breznican, Anthony. (March 8, 2003
Author*''Daughters of the Dust: The Making of an African American Woman's Film'', co-written with Toni Cade Bambara and bell hooks. The New Press, 1992, *''Daughters of the Dust: A Novel'', a sequel set 20 years after the passage explored in the film. Amelia, a young anthropology student who grew up in Harlem, goes to Dawtah Island to meet her mother's relatives and learn about their culture. Selected in 2011 for the Charleston County Public Library's "One Book Program".Susan Cohen, "Twenty years later, Julie Dash's film Daughters of the Dust continues to inspire"
Personal lifeDash and her former husband, photographer and cinematographer Arthur Jafa, have a daughter, Nzinga Jafa.
Honors and Awards*First Prize - Black American Cinema Society Award for ''Illusions'', 1985 *Sundance Film Festival Excellence in Cinematography Award (Dramatic) for ''Daughters of the Dust''; nominated for Grand Jury Prize, 1991 *Candace Award, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, 1992 *NAACP Image Awards, NAACP Image Award, Best Television Movie for ''The Rosa Parks Story''; Best TV Movie Actress for Angela Bassett, 2002 *Family Television Award, Movies and Mini-Series for ''The Rosa Parks Story'', 2002 *55th Annual Directors Guild of America Award, Directors Guild Awards - nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement on ''The Rosa Parks Story'' (first African-American woman nominated in the "Primetime Movies Made for Television" category), 2002 *Black Reel Awards of 2003, Black Reel Awards: Outstanding Television Actress - Angela Bassett; Outstanding Television Supporting Actress - Cicely Tyson; Outstanding Television Screenplay, Original or Adapted - Paris Qualles; Outstanding Television Film for ''The Rosa Parks Story, Rosa Parks Story'', 2003 *New York Christopher Award for ''The Rosa Parks Story'', 2003 *''Daughters of the Dust'' selected for the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, 2004 *Excellence in Cinematography Award for ''Daughters of the Dust'', 15th Cascade Festival of African Films, Portland, Oregon, 2005 *New York Film Critics Special Award, 2017 *Robert Smalls Merit and Achievement Award, 2017
Filmography*''Queen Sugar'' (2017) (TV) [season 2: episode 9 - "Yet Do I Marvel," episode 10 - "Drums at Dusk"] *''Standing at the Scratch Line'' (2016) [also writer] *''Smuggling Daydreams Into Reality'' (2011) *''My Marlton Square'' (2009) *''Brothers of the Borderland'' (2004) [film for immersive museum exhibit] *''The Rosa Parks Story'' (2002) (TV) *''Love Song'' (2000) (TV) *''Incognito'' (1999) (TV) *''Funny Valentines'' (1999) (TV) *''SUBWAYStories: Tales from the Underground, Subway Stories: Tales from the Underground'' (1997) (TV) [also writer, segment: "Sax Cantor Riff"] *''Women: Stories of Passion'' (1997) (TV) [also writer, 1 episode: "Grip Till It Hurts"] *''Praise House'' (1991) *''Daughters of the Dust'' (1991) [also writer, producer] *''Illusions (1982 film), Illusions'' (1982) [also writer] *''Four Women (1975 film), Four Women'' (1975) *''Diary of an African Nun'' (1977) *''Working Models of Success'' (1973) [documentary]
Music videos*Tracy Chapman, "Give Me One Reason" (1996) *Tony! Toni! Tone!, "Thinking of You (Tony! Toni! Toné! song), Thinking Of You" (1997) *Adriana Evans, Love Is All Around (Adriana Evans song), "Love Is All Around" (1997)
See also*L.A. Rebellion *Women's Cinema