Director: Cauleen Smith Run Time: 81 min. Release Year: 1998
Starring: April Barnett, Salim Akil, Stacey Marbrey, Toby Smith, Will Power
A lost treasure of 1990s DIY filmmaking, Cauleen Smith’s Drylongso embeds an incisive look at racial injustice within a lovingly handmade buddy movie/murder mystery/ romance. Alarmed by the rate at which the young Black men around her are dying—indeed, “becoming extinct,” as she sees it—brash Oakland art student Pica (Toby Smith) attempts to preserve their existence in Polaroid snapshots, along the way forging a friendship with a woman in an abusive relationship (April Barnett), experiencing love and loss, and being drawn into the search for a serial killer who is terrorizing the city. Capturing the vibrant community spirit of Oakland in the nineties, Smith crafts both a rare cinematic celebration of Black female creativity and a moving elegy for a generation of lost African American men.
“On the world stage, the cinema of Los Angeles is largely synonymous with Hollywood’s racialized and gendered structural exclusions and the reproduction of white supremacist imagery. In retaliation, a wave of L.A.-based Black independent artists and collectives, alongside diasporic networks of Black and anti-colonial filmmakers, reframed and reimagined what Black life looks like on screen. The work of Black women such as Camille Billops, Kathleen Collins, Maureen Blackwood, Safi Faye, Zeinabu irene Davis, and Julie Dash disrupts dominant cinematic representations of Blackness, and the constraints of narrative in general, by centering Black womanhood. Cauleen Smith’s artmaking is grounded in continuing that lineage, and her masterful first feature, Drylongso (1998), pushes the boundaries of Western cinematic genres and the canon of American independent filmmaking to attend to the mundanity of Black intimate life…
Drylongso remains Smith’s only feature film. When it came out in 1998, the film screened at the Sundance Film Festival and South by Southwest, but it never found major distribution. Like many other pioneering Black women filmmakers whose works have been neglected, buried, and unseen, Smith’s directorial debut did not receive the recognition it deserved—until now.” – Matene Toure, Screen Slate