Cheryl Dunye — the first self-identified black lesbian to direct a feature film — has donated her personal collection of queer material to the ONE Archives at the USC Libraries, the world’s largest repository of LGBTQ history.
“Cheryl Dunye is definitely an influential and groundbreaking filmmaker in terms of LGBT history, LGBT media, and history of film,” said Loni Shibuyama, ONE Archives librarian. “She stood out as a voice for women of color and women in particular, and telling the story that reflected black, queer women in the United States.”
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Dunye is perhaps best known for her debut film, 1996’s “The Watermelon Woman,” which placed her among a group of transformational queer independent filmmakers in the 1990s and part of the movement known as New Queer Cinema.
Dunye has made more than 15 films, including “Mommy Is Coming,” “The Owls,” “My Baby’s Daddy,” and HBO’s “Stranger Inside.”
Most of her films address identity, race, and sexuality.
She also directed an episode of TNT’s “Claws” in season two.
“The Watermelon Woman” tells the story of a 20-something black lesbian struggling to make a documentary about a 1930s film actress known as “the watermelon woman.”
“It really kind of documents her career and her life and the contribution she’s made to not only to the LGBT community, but also women’s filmmaking and filmmaking in general,” Shibuyama said.
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QUEER HISTORY MATERIAL
Dunye’s personal collection donation to the ONE Archives features scripts and production notebooks from her films, original photographs from “The Watermelon Woman,” filmmaker badges from film festivals around the world, film posters, T-shirts, and buttons.
For the 20th anniversary of “The Watermelon Woman,” the ONE Archives featured an exhibit at its ONE Gallery in West Hollywood that was inspired by the film and celebrated the film.
The exhibit was organized by ONE Archives curator David Frantz, whose relationship with Dunye grew beyond the length of the exhibit and led to Dunye’s donation to the archives.
PROFESSOR, ACADEMY MEMBER
Dunye’s next film is “Black Is Blue,” which follows Black, an African American transgender man who works as a security guard inside an Oakland apartment complex.
Dunye is a cinema professor at San Francisco State University.
Dunye is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.