Director Julie Dash Receives NEH Grant for ‘Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl’ Film

The Developing Film explores the Gullah Geechee History and Cultures That Framed the Life Story of Vertamae Smart Grosvenor

The documentary film about the life and works of Vertamae Smart Grosvenor, which is currently in development with Julie Dash as director, has been awarded a grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).  “Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl” was selected as part of the NEH’s mission to support humanities exhibitions and documentaries, and the preservation of American history and cultural heritage.

Written and Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Julie Dash, “Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl,” chronicles the life and work of Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, whose unconventional life-journeys and multifaceted career locates her at the heart of five twentieth century movements—the Beat Literary Arts Movement, the Black Power/Black Arts Movement, New Black Cinema, and Food as Cultural Memory. Writer, culinary anthropologist, actor, griot, broadcast journalist, grandmother, and citizen of the world —there is no singular definition for this Gullah-Geechee woman.

The film is produced by Rachel Watanabe-Batton and Dash, with Patricia Williams Lessane, PhD. and Juanita Anderson as co-producers. The documentary feature film is sponsored by Women Make Movies, Black Public Media, The Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts. 

 “Vertamae’s story is important to our history and culture as well as the international artistic, intellectual and social movements of which she was an active participant,” says Julie Dash. “Receiving this grant only further supports the need for us to bring ‘Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl’ to audiences of all race, ethnicities and cultures.” 

“From the beginning, we knew “Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl” would be essential to American history and culture,  and having received this grant right around Vertamae’s birthday felt like a blessing by the South Carolinian Geechee girl herself,” says Rachel Watanabe-Batton.

Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl” will present Grosvenor’s story through her own unique storytelling style, as well as the voices of those who know her and those who have been influenced and informed by her work. Her culinary recipes for both food and living will punctuate this narrative, in conjunction with images and sounds from the various locales she experienced throughout her life.

In 2012, Julie Dash began recording preliminary interviews with Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, gathering several hours of videotaped materials and transcripts that have informed the research for this film. Interviews with seminal artists include South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, poets Sonia Sanchez, Quincy Troupe and Saul Williams, and culinary writers Rafia Zafar and Jessica B. Harris. Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor and family offered her full support and permissions access for the film.

For more information about the film, please visit: Travelnotesofageecheegirl.com

About Julie Dash:

DIRECTOR/PRODUCER Julie Dash has written and directed five feature-length narrative films including LOVE SONG, FUNNY VALENTINES, INCOGNITO, THE ROSA PARKS STORY and DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, her 1991 masterpiece, which was named to the National Film Registry in 2004 by the Library of Congress, and inspired scenes in Beyonce’s Lemonade. Dash was also a segment director on SUBWAY STORIES: TALES FROM THE UNDERGROUND HBO anthology feature; commercials and documentary films. In addition to television films, Dash has directed episodic TV including WOMEN: STORIES OF PASSION and multiple episodes of season 2 of Ava DuVernay’s QUEEN SUGAR. Dash is slated to direct Angela Davis biopic for Lionsgate this year.  Dash is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences and the DGA.

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