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Filmmaker Julie Dash takes up guest faculty residency at Wayne State

WSU to welcome Dash, 2013 Bob Allison (Allesee) Endowed Chair in Media, at Detroit Film Theatre Jan. 24

January 11, 2013

Distinguished screenwriter/director/producer Julie Dash was appointed as the 2013 Bob Allison (Allesee) Endowed Professor in Media in the Department of Communication at Wayne State University. As part of her appointment, Dash is in residence at Wayne State throughout its winter 2013 semester, January through April, leading two courses in the Department of Communication and participating in a series of public screenings and special events in Detroit’s midtown cultural district.

Wayne State University welcomes Dash to campus at a special event 7pm, Thursday, January 24, in the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Detroit Film Theatre as WSU’s Department of Communication and the Friends of the Detroit Film Theatre present An Evening with Film Director Julie Dash, including a screening of her landmark independent feature film  Daughters of the Dust (1991) followed by a discussion with DIA Curator of Film and Performing Arts, Elliot Wilhelm, and a dessert afterglow.

With the debut of Daughters of the Dust in January 1992, Dash became the first African American female filmmaker with a feature film in general theatrical release in the U.S.  She is also the only African American woman to have a film in the National Film Registry; Daughters of the Dust was named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2004. Today it is one of only 625 American films to receive this designation as a national treasure.

Dash began her film studies at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1969, receiving her B.A. in film production from the City College of New York in 1974. She went on to become a fellow at the American Film Institute's Center for Advanced Film Studies before earning her M.F.A. in film and television production at UCLA in 1985. A member of the Directors Guild of America, Dash has directed commercials, music videos and films for HBO, Showtime, Encore, MTV, BET and CBS Network.

Among these is the Emmy-nominated and Image Award winning film The Rosa Parks Story (2002), starring Angela Bassett, which Dash presents February 2 at the Detroit Film Theatre at the launch of a retrospective celebration of her work. The retrospective continues on February 9 at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History with a slated screening of Funny Valentines (1999) starring Alfre Woodard, CCH Pounder and Loretta Devine. The retrospective celebration culminates February 15 at the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art with an evening of selected film shorts.

Dash returns to the Detroit Film Theatre in March and April as guest curator of a series of influential films:  Paul Marino and Kurt Norton’s These Amazing Shadows on March 30, Marcel Camus’ Academy Award-winning film Black Orpheus on April 6, and the powerful film by Shirley Clarke The Cool World on April 20.

At Wayne State University, Dash is conducting a master class in film production which focuses on the collaboration between screenwriter/director, production designer and cinematographer. She also is leading a course centered on the series of public screenings that examines approaches to, and influences on, her work.

“This is an exciting and unique opportunity for me as a filmmaker because my WSU class is comprised of such a diverse group of students,” said Dash. “Collaboration is the key to successful film production, so I'm looking forward to working alongside these emerging producers, writers, directors, cinematographers, production designers and editors who have taken on the challenge of producing several projects this semester.”

“Julie Dash’s work has helped transform the landscape of American Cinema,” observed Juanita Anderson, director of the media arts program at Wayne State. “The opportunity for our students and our community to engage with an artist of such clear vision and integrity is destined to create a synergy of creativity and inspiration. The insights she brings from the vantage point of her experience in both independent and Hollywood industry motion picture production will be invaluable to our student aspiring filmmakers as well as to the Michigan film industry community.”

The Bob Allison (Allesee) Endowed Chair in Media was created to recognize and facilitate scholarly and professional achievement in the Wayne State Department of Communication’s media arts and studies program, bringing the program national and international recognition. Bob and Maggie Allesee established the endowed chair in 2009 with a generous gift of $1.5 million.

“It’s very exciting for all of us at Wayne State University to have Julie Dash here as our winter 2013 Bob Allison (Allesee) Media Professor,” said Matthew W. Seeger, dean of the university’s College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts. “While hosting a guest artist of Julie Dash’s stature raises the profile of our program in media arts and studies, the ultimate beneficiaries of Bob and Maggie Allesee’s wonderful gift are our film and media students.”

The Department of Communication is a vital division of the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts at Wayne State. Wayne State University, located in the heart of Detroit’s Midtown Cultural Center, is a premier urban research institution offering 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 29,000 students.