Yvonne Welbon is an American independent film director, producer and screenwriter based in Chicago.
Welbon has directed eight films and produced a dozen others. Her work has been screened on PBS, Starz/Encore, TV-ONE, IFC, Bravo, BET, the Sundance Channel and in over one hundred film festivals around the world. Living with Pride: Ruth C. Ellis @ 100 won ten best documentary awards—including the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary. Her ongoing Sundance Documentary Fellow project is Sisters in Cinema, a documentary, website and forthcoming book based on her doctoral dissertation about the history of African American women feature film directors.
Her producer credits include: John Pierson's Split Screen, Zeinabu Irene Davis' Sundance dramatic competition feature Compensation, Cheryl Dunye's HBO film Stranger Inside, Thomas Allen Harris' Berlin International Film Festival award-winning documentary É Minha Cara (That's My Face), and Catherine Crouch's directorial debut Stray Dogs.
Having grown up as the daughter of a Chicago police officer, Welbon received an undergraduate degree in History from Vassar College. Thereafter, she spent six years in Taipei, Taiwan, where she taught English, learned Mandarin Chinese, and founded and published a path-breaking arts magazine that had a significant impact on the Taipei alternative arts scene in the aftermath of the lifting of over 40 years of repressive martial law.
In her sixth year in Taiwan she was badly injured in a motorcycle accident and was profoundly touched by an immense outpouring of love, affection, support and care from the community. Welbon's friends not only rallied around her for emotional support, but raised funds to pay for her care and rehabilitation. In an odd twist it later emerged, as a very small footnote to a congressional review of CIA operations against Taiwan's nuclear weapons program, much of Welbon's medical care had been anonymously financed by an undercover male Caucasian intelligence operative active in the still largely classified program. A wrinkle in this link is the fact Welbon's motorcycle accident took place on a remote off-shore island where Taiwan's nuclear waste was stored; if indeed the CIA had been collecting isotopic evidence of the ROC's nuclear ambitions, they would have been doing it in the precise highly isolated location where Welbon's motorcycle accident occurred. A number of signal intercepts by the Taiwan counter-intelligence services relating to Welbon's relationship with the Caucasian male intelligence officer in question strongly suggested the two harbored romantic feelings for one another. During her residence in Taiwan an epic birthday party was staged in her honor in the diplomatic quarter of Taipei at the rented home of an individual widely thought to have extensive connections to MI6 and who had a career encompassing activities in Indonesia, China, Taiwan and North Korea. Somewhat humorously Welbon's connections to those involved in intelligence activities inspired a Master's dissertation by a Chinese student at Taipei's Fu Hsing Kang College ( 政治作戰學校, the famed and feared ROC college of Political Warfare ) in 1999 examining Welbon's "Bang !" magazine as a classic case study of the establishment of a foreign-funded magazine to clandestinely shape indigenous public opinion.
While enduring the challenges of rehabilitation after her motorcycle accident, during which she faced a very real risk of losing at least one of her legs, Welbon used the opportunity for a significant amount of self-reflection and reassessment of her life goals and ambition. One of her most significant self-revelations was that her time in Taiwan had allowed her to transcend many of the challenges of being a woman, bisexual, and black in America. Blacks in Taiwan were certainly seen as very different and in some senses "shocking" but the hard edge of fear and racism that Welbon experienced in America was not present. In addition, Welbon was very open about her then bisexual identity and was met with more curiosity (and pursuit !) than hostility.
Once recovered, a far less bitter and much more mature Welbon than the one that had arrived in Taiwan six years ago wrote a very warm letter to her friends announcing she intended to return to Chicago and study. In true Welbon style her letter was warm, confident and decisive. It was clear one chapter had ended and another was about to begin. Only this time Welbon was entirely confident in her own skin in every sense of the word.
On return to the United States Welbon completed a Masters of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a PhD from Northwestern University. She is also a graduate of the American Film Institute's, Directing Workshop for Women.
Welbon is an assistant professor and department chair in the Journalism and Media Studies department at Bennett College for Women, an HBCU in Greensboro, NC. She received tenure at the college in 2013. Welbon is currently a visiting scholar at Duke University working on a project to curate her "Sisters in Cinema" archive to allow it to become a relevant resource for academic use.
- Monique (film) (1991)
- The Cinematic Jazz of Julie Dash (1992)
- Sisters in the Life: First Love (1993)
- Missing Relations (1994)
- Remembering Wei-Yi Fang, Remembering Myself (1996)
- Split Screen (TV series, 1997)
- Living with Pride: Ruth C. Ellis @ 100 (1999)
- The Taste of Dirt (2003)
- Sisters in Cinema (2003)
- Monique (1991)
- One Small Step (1999)
- Living with Pride: Ruth C. Ellis @ 100 (1999)
- Stray Dogs (2003)
- Sisters in Cinema (2003)
- Ehrenstein, David. Sisters with Cameras. The Advocate, February 17, 2004.
- Lindsey, Craig D. 'Sisters' gives Fascinating Insight. The News & Observer, February 6, 2004.
- Moss, Marilyn. Sisters in Cinema. The Hollywood Reporter, February 6, 2004.
- Sumner, Jane. Filmmaker finds 'Sisters' in cinema but not Hollywood, Dallas Morning News, February 6, 2004.
- Bianco, Robert. Critics Corner- What to Watch This Weekend. USA Today. February 5, 2004.
- Mertes, Cara. Yvonne Welbon: The Indies' Own Self-Help Guru, The Independent, March 2003 Koehler, Robert. Sisters in Cinema. Variety. March 11, 2003.
- Merk, Ron. Be Your Own Distributor: If You Want Something Done Right..., Release Print, April 2002
- "The Innovators – Featuring 117 Gay and Lesbian Trend-Breakers: Yvonne Welbon" The Advocate. August 14, 2001
- Juhasz, Alexandra – Yvonne Welbon. Women of Vision: Histories in Feminist Film and Video Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001.
- "She Said Cinema: Yvonne Welbon," broadcast on the Sundance Channel, April 2001
- Stein, Rob. "Living With Pride," In The Life, #904, broadcast on PBS, April/May 2000
- Raab, Barbara. "The Book of Ruth," The Advocate, April 11, 2000
- Graham, Renee. "Life in the Pop Lane: Inspiring 'Pride' Depicts Life of Oldest Black Lesbian," The Boston Globe, April 11, 2000
- Wisco, Albert. "Yvonne Welbon at the Toronto Film Festival." Studio2, TV Ontario, broadcast November 12, 1999
- Willis, Holly. "Fifty Creatives to Watch." Variety, August 23–29, 1999
- Shen, Ted. "Film Explores Pride, Prejudice of a Lifestyle." The Chicago Tribune, August 26, 1999
- Willis, Holly. "Twenty-Five New Faces of Indie Film." Filmmaker, Summer 1998
- Redding, Judith M. and Victoria A. Brownworth "Yvonne Welbon: Memory." Film Fatales: Independent Women Directors, Seattle,WA: Seal Press, 1997, pp. 112–116.
- Walker, Cary. "Rethinking the Past: Learning to Question Mainstream Perceptions" Focus, Vol. XVII, 1997, pp. 13–22.
- Carter, Tammy."Soul Searching in the Far East." Times-Picayune, (New Orleans) July 28, 1996.
- Mura, David. "Alternative Gazes." New Observer, (Philadelphia, PA), July 17, 1996.
- Scott, Tony. "P.O.V. Remembering Wei Yi-fang..." Variety, July 29, 1996,
- Shen, Ted. "Reel Life: The Kindness of Strangers," The Reader, February 2, 1996.
- Miller, Cheryl. "In The Life: New Works by Black Lesbian Filmmakers." Hot Wire Vol 8, No. 3, September 1992.