More than 25 years ago, Julie Dash’s story filmed in the Beaufort area about a Sea Islands family trying to maintain their Gullah heritage at the turn of the 20th century became a landmark success.
“Daughters of the Dust” was released in 1991, recently gained new acclaim as the inspiration for music artist Beyonce’s video album “Lemonade” and underwent a digital restoration and was released again for the 25th anniversary. Dash’s film was the first by a black woman to enjoy a wide release.
Her film earned multiple honors, including an award at Sundance, and Dash remains the only African American woman with a feature film in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.
Dash’s work will be recognized at the 11th annual Beaufort Film Festival, which begins Wednesday at the University of South Carolina Beaufort Center for the Arts. She will receive the Robert Smalls Merit and Achievement Award, which will be presented Sunday evening by Smalls’ great-great grandson, Michael Boulware Moore.
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Her film will be screened Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at USCB. Tickets are $10.
Smalls, a slave, Civil War hero and congressman, is also the subject of a screenplay accepted by the festival, the work called “Robert Smalls’ Great Escape.” The script was written by Bernard Smith of Mandeville, La.
Filmmakers submitted more than 300 entries this year. The six feature films are the most the festival has screened.
Festival director Ron Tucker and his wife, Rebecca, held the first festival in 2007. They hope to help grow a USCB media arts capable of producing film professionals who draw filmmakers back to an area with a deep history of making movies.
“It fits well with what we’re passionate about,” said Ron Tucker, who before co-founding the Beaufort Film Society with his wife produced Marine Corps documentaries. “We both love movies, and we watch every single one of them that comes into the film festival.”
Here are a few aspects of the festival to watch for:
A local connection
In addition to Smalls, the Lowcountry is represented by Hilton Head Island filmmaker Guy Smith.
His film, “The Red Grifo,” about a man and his classic 1960s Iso Grifo sportscar, was named a finalist in the documentary category. Smith is up against five other films in the category. He boasts the only local entry.
Two of the feature films were made in South Carolina. Columbia’s Tommy Faircloth directed “Family Possessions,” a thriller about a woman who inherits a family mansion. “Fare,” by Fort Mill resident Thomas Torrey, follows a ride-share driver carrying a man secretly having an affair with the driver’s wife.
Charleston filmmaker Brad Jayne will receive the festival’s “Behind the Scenes” award. He has worked on independent films in the Carolinas the past 15 years, recently producing the feature “Warrior Road,” shot over about a month in Charleston and Myrtle Beach.
The chance to learn something
Those who want insight as to how the sausage is made should dive into the film and digital media symposium Saturday at USCB Center for the Arts. The event is free and starts at 10 a.m., with a reception to follow at Technical College of the Lowcountry at 6 p.m.
A screenwriting workshop will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the arts center. Addiitonally, many of the filmmakers will be avilable for question-and-answer sessions after their screenings.
A full day to chill
For the first time, the festival will extend an extra day. The closing awards ceremony and reception doesn’t begin until 6 p.m., giving filmmakers and other visitors a chance to explore Beaufort.
“A lot of filmmakers in past years, because we’re so jam packed after the awards ceremony, they leave the next day,” Ron Tucker said. “They don’t really get to see and feel Beaufort.”
Tickets to the cocktail reception and awards are $40 each for Beaufort Film Society Members and $50 for everyone else.