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About the Film
Year Released: 
Running Time: 

“Drylongso” is an old African American term that means “ordinary,” or “just the same old thing.” Ambitious and densely packed, Cauleen Smith’s remarkable debut feature addresses the everydayness of violence and the extraordinary beauty of daily life.

Pica is a young woman growing up in Oakland, California, who feels deeply the value and vulnerability of everyone’s life but her own. At home her room is perpetually violated by her mother’s partying visitors, and her work in illegal poster distribution puts her in nightly danger of attack. At school she is unable to make any progress on her 35 mm photography project. Instead, armed with charming savvy and a Polaroid camera, Pica tirelessly documents the existence of young black men, whom she believes to be an endangered species.

Along the way, she snaps a photo of Tobi, a young black woman, disguised as a man, who is running from a violent boyfriend. Tobi discovers that her assumed gender gives her new strength and freedom of movement around the city. Fate, however, does not spare Pica’s boyfriend, Malik, and his death inspires her to turn the rampant casual violence into something transcendently beautiful through her art.

Full of irony and inspired by the lyrics and rhythms of hip-hop music, Drylongso breathes fresh air into popular notions of black culture.

If black men are endangered, black women are still safer when they dress as black men. Shot on a shoestring budget, Drylongso is a filmmaking triumph which tells a story that needs to be heard."

(Shari Frilot, 1999 Sundance Film Festival -

Poster Image: 
Film Director: 
Production Info
Reported or Estimated Budget: 
Oakland, CA
Other Interesting Production Info: 
This is a low-budget, low-tech 16mm feature filmed over 22 days. It is also low-key in terms of the kind of publicity and distribution it has received.
Categories About the Film
coming of age
period drama
activism and social justice
art and culture
coming of age
domestic violence
sexual abuse
state violence and security
urban life
Racial/Ethnic Affiliation: 
African American
Filmmaking Team
Writer's Name: 
Salim Akil, Cauleen Smith
Nation Sack Filmworks Production
Andrew Black
Primary Cast: 
Toby Smith, April Barnett, Will Power
Exhibition/Distribution Info
The Asylum
Where to find it/How to get it: 
Rare and hard to find

Grand Jury Prize for “Best Feature Film” at Underworld Film Festival (1999), “Someone to Watch Award” at Independent Spirit Awards (1999); screened at Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema, Sundance*, Hamptons Film Festival*, San Francisco Film Arts Festival, SxSW, The Other America Festival, Classically Independent Film Festival, New Orleans Film and Video Festival, Atlanta Film and Video Festival 

  • Obenson, Tambay A. "Cauleen Smith Talks The Power Of Cinema, Afrofuturism Watch Some Of Her Recent Short Pieces," from Shadow & Act. Indiewire, 29 Jun 2011. Web. 1 Dec. 2012. <>.
  • Urbani, Diane D. "Oaklander's Film Well Received at Sundance," from Oakland Post: 8. Ethnic NewsWatch. Feb 10 1999. Web. 1 Dec. 2012. <>
  • Varner, Sandra. "'Drylongso' - Cauleen Smith's Bittersweet Tale," from Oakland Post: 8. Ethnic NewsWatch. Aug 11 1999. Web. 1 Dec. 2012 .<>.
'Drylongso' - Cauleen Smith's Bittersweet Tale - ProQuest.pdf131.88 KB
Oaklander's Film Well Received At Sundance - ProQuest.pdf130.41 KB