Sunday, April 25, 2010


It was not very easy finding a director and screenwriters. in my research I came across Cheryl Dunye. I chose director, screenwriter, and filmmaker Cheryl Dunye whose work explores issues of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. I find Dunye to be very interesting as in her work she plays both the actor and director. Dunye is known for combining intensely personal accounts with humor. Dunye films and videos are engaging and provocative, revealing the complexities and struggles she has faced, as well as her happiness and pride, in being an African-American lesbian.

Who is Cheryl Dunye? Cheryl Dunye a native of Liberia received her BA from Temple University and her MFA from Rutgers University's Mason Gross School of the Arts.
Dunye has received numerous national and international honors for her work in the media arts. Her third feature film, Miramax's, MY BABY'S DADDY, was a box office success and played at theaters nation wide. Dunye's second feature, the acclaimed HBO Films, Stranger Inside, garnered Dunye an Independent Spirit award nomination for best director in 2002.

Dunye wrote, directed and starred in her first film which was the first African American lesbian feature film, The Watermelon Woman. It was awarded the Teddy Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival and best feature in L.A.'s OutFest, Italy's Torino, and France's Creteil Film Festivals. Dunye's other works have been included in the Whitney Biennial and screened at festivals in New York, London, Tokyo, Cape Town, Amsterdam and Sydney.

Dunye serves on the Directors Guild of America's Independent Council and on the advisory board for New York's Independent Film Project's Gordon Parks Award. She was also a mentor for IFP/ West Project Involve and a board member of Los Angeles OUTFEST.

In addition Dunye has received grants from the Astraea Foundation and Frameline; a recipient of a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts; a fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation; and graced with the prestigious Anonymous was a Woman Award as well as a lifetime achievement award from Girlfriends Magazine.

Dunye currently teaches in the Department of Film and Media Arts at Temple University and is at work on a slate of new projects in the US and abroad.
Cheryl Dunye is known for the following films listed below.

My Baby's Daddy, directed by Cheryl Dunye from a committee-written script, follows three bachelor buddies on a journey toward maturity initiated by the simultaneous pregnancy of their girlfriends. Starring Eddie Griffen of the movie "Undercover Brother" Anthony Anderson from the new movie "Kangaroo Jack" and Micheal Imperioli from "The Sparanos".

Stranger Inside, based on four years of research into the lives of incarcerated women. View photos from the production of Stranger Inside. For more info on the film and its premiere on HBO go to

In The Watermelon Woman Dunye displays her passion for uncovering the hidden histories and continuities of black lesbian life at the same time working towards cinematic representations of black women that refute racist stereotypes. View a video clip from The Watermelon Woman, produced by Barry Swimar and Alexandra Juhasz

Dunye is famous in role in "The Watermelon Woman" seamlessly weaves together the issues of race relations, ethnic and lesbian identity construction, and prevailing oppression in all its subtleties. The first film by and about an African-American lesbian, writer-director Cheryl Dunye’s fantasy is a “mockumentary,” focusing on recapturing the life and times of a fictionalized 1930s Hollywood actress.Setting up the film as a pseudo-documentary of an aspiring filmmaker's research on a Black lesbian actor from the thirties counterpoints a historical context of these issues, with its modern manifestations. An excellent film from a multiple-minority perspective. The acting may call for more training, but the successful execution of the issues excuses the sometimes contrived reading of lines. The portrayal of Guin Turner's naively ignorant character (a white woman who prefers men and women of African-descent) was well written and played. The film illustrated race relations on many sides of the issue -- the relations between people of the same race and cross-racial relations. Funny, as well as socially valuable, "The Watermelon Woman" is one of those rare films that reaffirm my expectations for film: not just as a form of entertainment or art, but as a tool for social commentary. The film was very creative and an eye opener. Dunye's role in The Watermelon Woman was a quest of hers to secure her place in history as a black lesbian who wanted scoiety to know that she is a real person with a voice. Dunye in this film wanted to expose the hidden racism in the lesbian community.

Plot: The Watermelon Woman

Cheryl is a young, African American lesbian who works in a video rental store in Philadelphia with her friend Tamara. They earn extra money by making professional home videos for people. Cheryl becomes interested in films from the 1930s and 40s which feature black actresses. She notices that these actresses are often not credited. She watches a film called Plantation Memories with a black actress who is credited simply as "The Watermelon Woman". Cheryl decides to make a documentary about the Watermelon Woman and find out more about her life.

Tamara tries to set Cheryl up with her friend Yvette, but Cheryl is not interested. Cheryl meets a white woman in the store called Diana who, to Tamara's annoyance, flirts with Cheryl.

Cheryl starts interviewing members of the public, asking them if they have heard of the Watermelon Woman. She interviews her mother who does not remember the name, but recognises a photograph of her. She tells Cheryl that she used to hear the Watermelon Woman singing in clubs in Philadelphia. Tamara's mother tells Cheryl to get in contact with Lee Edwards — a man who has done a lot of research into black films. Cheryl and Tamara go to see Lee, and he tells them about 1920s and 30s black culture in Philadelphia. He explains to them that in those days, black women usually played domestic servants.

Cheryl meets her mother's friend Shirley, who turns out to be a lesbian. Shirley tells her that the Watermelon Woman's name was Fae Richards, that she was a lesbian too, and that she used to sing in clubs "for all us stone butches". She says that Fae was always with Martha Page, the white director of Plantation Memories, and that Martha was a mean and ugly woman.

When Cheryl and Tamara get caught ordering video tapes under Diana's name, Diana takes the tapes and tells Cheryl that she will have to come to her home to collect them. Cheryl goes to Diana's house, stays for dinner, and watches some of the tapes with her, telling her about her project. They have sex, and Cheryl decides that although Diana is not her usual type of woman, she likes being with her.

Cheryl meets cultural critic Camille Paglia who tells her about the Mammy archetype, saying that it represented a goddess figure. Cheryl goes to the CLIT archive of lesbian material, and finds photographs of Fae Richards, including one given by Fae to a June Walker. With Diana's help, Cheryl manages to contact Martha Page's sister who denies that Martha was a lesbian.

As Cheryl and Diana grow closer, Tamara makes it clear that she dislikes Diana and disapproves of their relationship. She accuses Cheryl of wanting to be white, and Diana of having a fetish for black people.

Cheryl telephones June Walker, learning that she was Fae's partner for 20 years. They arrange to meet, but June is taken to hospital and leaves a letter for Cheryl instead. In the letter she says that she is angry with Martha Page, that Martha is nothing to do with what Fae's life was. She urges Cheryl to tell their history.
Having separated from Diana, and fallen out with Tamara, Cheryl finishes her project, never managing to make further contact with June.

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