Cheryl Dunye is an icon, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. She is an epic filmmaker who has created honest, real, and beautiful pieces of queer content that set the stage for what the future holds for the next generation of the LGBTQ+ community. And that’s why she’s our #FemaleFilmmakerFriday pick of the week!
1. Dunye is the most influential African American lesbian filmmaker.
Dunye was part of a 1990’s wave of African American queer people who were creating for themselves instead of waiting for doors to be opened for them. She took her life and all of its struggles and delivered stories of race, sexuality, and identity. And at the end of the day, after each project was completed, viewers were left feeling like they were the ones going through all these changes, woes, and situations.
2. Dunye’s work is acclaimed and nominated for all the awards.
The Watermelon Woman, her first feature film, won the Teddy Award for Best Feature at Berlinale in 1996. Her second feature film, HBO’s Stranger Inside, was nominated for four Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Director in 2002. In 2004 she was awarded the community vision award via the National Center for Lesbian Rights. And she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by Girlfriends magazine and Good For Her Feminist Porn Award.
3. Dunye is a renowned professor.
From undergraduate courses in collaborative filmmaking to African American Films and Filmmakers, to graduate courses in cinematic imagination and queer cinema, Dunye has done it all! She is training the next generation of filmmakers as a means of giving back to the queer and POC community who have always found it difficult to enter the sphere of filmmaking. This ambition has taken her from Philadelphia to California and the Netherlands.
4. Dunye directed the first feature film directed by an African American lesbian.
Not only did Dunye direct The Watermelon Woman, she starred in it as herself. And what we were left with at the end of the film is an autobiography/documentary hybrid that feels familiar and real because of the low tech manner it was filmed in. The Watermelon Woman is a landmark in film making and more people need to know about it. So, spread the word and watch The Watermelon Woman! You won’t regret it.
5. Dunye is a female filmmaker.
From her collection of dunyementaries to working on Queen Sugar and Claws for TNT, Dunye has the skills and experience to open doors for herself and those that follow. She’s also directed an episode of The Chi for Showtime, Star on Fox, and The Fosters on Freeform. Coming up Dunye is set to write and direct The Wonder of All Things Jason Mott. It’s the story of a young woman with abilities to heal that suddenly gets shoved into the overwhelming spotlight filled with people who want to be healed by her but that don’t understand the cost of it to our protagonist.
Know any other female filmmakers you think should be featured for our #FemaleFilmmakerFridays series? Let us know in the comments below!