Cheryl Dunye

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Cheryl Dunye
Born (1966-05-13) May 13, 1966 (age 49)
Education BA at Temple University. MA at Rutgers University
Occupation film director, producer, screenwriter, editor, actress

Cheryl Dunye (born May 13, 1966) is a film director, producer, screenwriter, editor and actress. Dunye is a lesbian[1] and her work often concerns themes of race, sexuality and gender, particularly issues relating to black lesbians.

Dunye was born in Liberia, and grew up in Philadelphia. Dunye has taught at the University of California Los Angeles, UC Riverside, Pitzer College, Claremont Graduate University, Pomona College, California Institute of the Arts, The New School of Social Research, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.[2][3]

She is currently an assistant professor at San Francisco State University and a mother of two children.[3]

Film career[edit]

Dunye began her career with six short films which have been collected on DVD as The Early Works of Cheryl Dunye.[4][5] Dunye's feature debut was The Watermelon Woman (1996), a film which explored the history of black women and lesbians in film.[6]

The Watermelon Woman sparked controversy in 1997, through its funding by National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants. Rep. Pete Hoekstra wrote a letter to the NEA chairwoman, Jane Alexander, stating that The Watermelon Woman “is one of several gay- and lesbian-themed works cited by the Michigan Republican as evidence of "the serious possibility that taxpayer money is being used to fund the production and distribution of patently offensive and possibly pornographic movies."’ Because of this controversy the NEA restructured itself by awarding grants to specific projects, rather than giving funding straight to arts groups for dispersion.[7]

Behind The Watermelon Woman: in 1993 Dunye was doing research for a class on black film history, by looking for information on black actresses in early films. Many times the credits for these women were left out of the film. Dunye decided that she was going to use her work to create a story for black women in early films. When confronted about the omissions in film history, Dunye replied, "That it's going to take more than just my film for that picture to be corrected", says Dunye. "There needs to be more work, there needs to be more black protagonists. There are a lot of talented actresses that have nothing to do but "mammy" roles again and again, modem day mammies. There needs to be a focus that gets them working, getting some of those Academy Awards like they should.” [8]

The Watermelon Woman Aired on the Sundance Channel on August 12th, 1998. Dunye was the only female director to be showcased during that month. (Armstrong) Dunye was selected as one of POWER UP's 2008 Top-10 Powerful Women In Showbiz.[9]

She directed the 2001 television movie Stranger Inside based on the experiences of African-American lesbians in prison.[10]

Taking a turn from self-written lesbian-focused films, she directed My Baby's Daddy starring Eddie Griffin, Michael Imperioli, and Anthony Anderson in 2004, although a character in the film turns out to be lesbian.[11]

She directed The Owls, co-written with novelist Sarah Schulman, which made its debut at the Berlin International Film Festival. The film is about a group of "Older, Wiser Lesbians" (an acronym of which provides the title) who accidentally kill a younger woman and try to cover it up.[12] The cast includes Guinevere Turner and V.S. Brodie, who had appeared together in the 1994 lesbian-themed film Go Fish and The Watermelon Woman, as well as Dunye, Lisa Gornick, Skyler Cooper, and Deak Evgenikos.[12]

As of 2010, Dunye is working on a film called Adventures in the 419, also co-written with Schulman, which was selected as one of the works-in-progress films in the Tribeca All Access program during the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.[13][14] The film is set in Amsterdam and is about 419 scams among the immigrant community.[14]







Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "Cheryl Dunye — Director, Screenwriter, Film & Media Maker". official website. Cheryl Dunye. Retrieved 2007-06-30. 
  2. ^ "Faculty: Cheryl Dunye". Temple University. Retrieved 2010-01-14. 
  3. ^ a b "Resume". official website. Cheryl Dunye. Retrieved 2012-05-07. 
  4. ^ Hardy, Ernest (2009-05-07), "Cheryl Dunye: Return of the Watermelon Woman", LA Weekly, retrieved 2010-04-27 
  5. ^ Dunye, Cheryl (1992), "Janine, (1990) & She Don't Fade (1991)", FELIX: A Journal of Media Arts and Communication (2), retrieved 2010-04-27 
  6. ^ Keough, Peter (1997-05-08), "Slice of life — The Watermelon Woman refreshes", The Phoenix, retrieved 2010-04-27 
  7. ^ Moss, J. Jennings (April 1, 1997), "The NEA Gets Gay-bashed.", Advocate (730) 
  8. ^ Trudi, Perkins (June 1997), "Caution: She'll Make You Think!", Lesbian News (22.11) 
  9. ^, retrieved 2012-05-02  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ Marcus, Lydia (2001-07-03), "Cell Out", The Advocate: 54, retrieved 2010-04-27 
  11. ^ Harvey, Dennis (2004-01-11), "My Baby's Daddy", Variety, retrieved 2010-04-27 
  12. ^ a b Felperin, Leslie (2010-02-21), "The Owls", Variety, retrieved 2010-04-27 
  13. ^ Williams, Janette (2010-04-03), "Local filmmaker heading to Tribeca film fest", Pasadena Star-News, retrieved 2010-04-27 
  14. ^ a b Knegt, Peter (2010-03-22), "Tribeca All Access Sets 24 Projects For Seventh Edition", indieWire, retrieved 2010-04-27 
  • Juhasz, Alexandra. Women of Vision: Histories in Feminist Film and Video. 

External links[edit]