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The Essentials: Drylongso (1998)

Drylongso follows a woman in a photography class who begins taking pictures of black men out of fear they will soon be extinct.
(R, 81 min.)


Wednesday, June 19, 2024

7:00 PM

This monthly series showcases essential films everyone should see on the big screen.
The Essentials series is Free for Members.

A rediscovered 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, brash Oakland, California, 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) and experiencing love, heartbreak, and the everyday threat of violence. 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. [Criterion]

Starring: Toby Smith, April Barnett, Will Power
Director: Cauleen Smith
Genre: Drama

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"Cauleen Smith’s independent masterpiece."

— Kathleen Sachs, Chicago Reader

"Cauleen Smith’s overlooked DIY classic from 1998 is a potent examination of the power of art and love in the midst of social upheaval."

— Derek Smith, Slant Magazine

"Effective and engaging performances, penetrating subject matter, and a simple but thoughtful shooting style make Drylongso a movie that is truly extraordinary."

— Marjorie Baumgarten, The Austin Chronicle

"Drylongso is an affectionate art-school razz; a study of female friendship; a reflection on gender, race, & violence; a murder mystery; and a portrait of Oakland. Among its many pleasures, it reveals the unexpected in the everyday."

— Melissa Anderson, 4Columns

"Funny, frank, and wide-ranging in where it looks, Drylongso easily sells the work of portraiture as a lush variety of performance on its own, accomplishing, too, the elusive trick of making it look organic — almost as though her images were simply found."

— George Elkind, Metro Times

"The vibrant debut of acclaimed artist Cauleen Smith navigated the blurry lines of the private and public, harnessing its protagonist’s endless charisma to comment on racial politics, the strictures of the art world, and the importance of community. Brought back to screens in a beautifully textured restoration, Drylongso stands today as fresh and bold a film as it was in 1998, confidently juggling contagious charm and potent political awareness."

— Rafa Sales Ross, EIFF

"'Drylongso' isn’t a movie interested in neatly adhering to any one genre. The film actually could most simply be classified as a portrait of a young woman. It looks to capture through its grainy 16mm lenses the vagaries of a life where anxieties over the safety of oneself and one’s community co-exist with — are often inextricable from — the joys of creative breakthrough and new friendship. Restored and now finally getting the release it didn’t receive 25 years ago, 'Drylongso' is more and more being deservingly recognized as a quasi-lost masterwork."

— Blake Peterson, 425 Magazine