Copyright 1995 ABC-CLIO. This review was taken from the ABC-CLIO Video Rating Guide for Libraries on CD-ROM, a 5-year compilation of over 8900 video titles and reviews, 1990-1994. For information regarding order VRGL CD-ROM, contact: ABC-CLIO, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911; 805-968-1911

This following text has been included in the UCB Media Resources Center Web site with the kind permission of the publishers.

Family across the Sea

  • Rating: ****
  • Audience: Intermediate to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $89.00
  • Date: Copyright 1990. Released 1991.
  • Descriptors: Gullah dialect. Blacks - History. Sierra Leone. Cultural relations.
  • Production Information: Live action. Narrated by Augusta Baker. Color. 58 min.
  • Production Company: SCETV
  • Available from: California Newsreel 149 9th St., #420 San Francisco, CA 94103 (415)621-6196
  • Cataloging: 305.896'073 Afro-Americans - South Carolina - Relations with Africans||Sierra Leone
  • Print Entry #: 3:81
  • Reviewer: Mary H. Stein

    Family across the Sea, produced by SCETV, documents the 1989 homecoming trip made by a delegation of the Gullah people of South Carolina to their homeland Sierra Leone, and shows the Gullah as descendants of escaped slaves who have managed to preserve their cultural heritage in spite of centuries of separation from their native land.

    More suitable for private than standard classroom viewing due to its length, Family across the Sea ties together shots of the Gullah reunion, interviews with historians, footage from past and current homes of the Gullah, and shots of drawings, seagrass baskets, paintings, bills of sale, and maps into a collage of discovery. Loosely organized as a scrapbook of the visit, interspersed with flashbacks through history, the narration by Augusta Baker and the effective use of music help to unify the work. There seems to be enough material to fill up a more substantial, or focused documentary on the historical linkage from Sierra Leone to Gullah, but this emphatic perspective makes a nice introduction.

    Technically, Family across the Sea is pretty solid, with excellent audio and video quality. Audio fades are good; video editing and pace is less even, using a combination of fades and quick cuts. Several slow motion or freeze shots seem unnecessary affectations, and interrupt rather than contribute to the flow. Subtitles are used occasionally, especially for non-English phrases. Closeups are excellent. The landscapes of salt marshes and the slave yards of Bunce Island are especially impressive. Music is comprised of spirituals, hymns, and folk songs all beautifully presented.

    Though not a strict documentary, Family across the Sea demonstrates how the Gullah maintained large portions of their language, music, art, games, and even food cultures throughout the long years of slavery, emancipation, relocation, and rebuilding in the modern age. It offers a rare look at the healing process achieved during the pilgrimage, as the travelers rediscovered their homeland and placed themselves in the context of history.

    Designed for a general viewing audience, this video presents an interesting view of cultural anthropology at work, detecting and documenting the links between the groups. Its moderate price and accessible approach make it an excellent choice for public and school libraries, whether there is an emphasis on black studies or not. In particular, South Carolina and other southern Atlantic coastal states, as well as Oklahoma, should consider this title for their local history or genealogy collections.

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