Award-winning filmmaker Cheryl Dunye will be returning to episodic television when she writes and directs “The Gilda Stories,” which follows an escaped black slave and bisexual vampire who comes of age during 200 years of African-American history.
The series will be based on the 1991 novel of the same name by author-playwright-activist Jewelle Gomez. The book is a prime example of Afrofuturism, a form of science fiction that is rooted in and celebrates African history, traditions, culture, and a black identity.
Dunye — the first self-identified black lesbian to direct a feature film — also will lead the project as showrunner. Production is scheduled to start in 2020.
“Jewelle Gomez is the foremother of Afrofuturism, which is wildly popular right now,” Dunye said in a statement. “The project of bringing a Jewelle Gomez novel to film or television has long been a dream of mine, and with ‘The Gilda Stories,’ we have the perfect vehicle to bring her uniquely magical and transgressive voice to episodic audiences everywhere.”
Dunye might best be known for her introduction film, 1996’s “The Watermelon Woman,” which set her among some queer indie movie makers during the 1990s and part of the New Queer Cinema.
In September, Dunye donated her collection of queer history to the ONE Archives at USC Libraries.
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.
Dunye also has worked on television, directing episodes of “Queen Sugar,” Claws,” “The Fosters,” “Love Is,” and “Star.”
Rights to “The Gilda Stories” were acquired by San Francisco-based 13th Gen, the film house owned by multi-award winning independent filmmaker Marc Smolowitz.
“We are thrilled to bring ‘The Gilda Stories’ to a whole new generation of fans under the unique stewardship of our longtime creative collaborator Cheryl Dunye,” Smolowitz said in the same statement.
“The Gilda Stories” has never gone out of print. In 2016, San Francisco’s City Lights Publishers released a 25th anniversary edition of the novel, which prompted Dunye to approach Gomez about working together.
“Gilda has seduced a legion of loyal fans over many years,” Gomez said in the same statement. “Having marveled at Cheryl Dunye’s impressive career since her first film ‘The Watermelon Woman,’ I know that she is just the filmmaker to ensure Gilda gains many more.”
Gomez is known for her lifelong commitment to the arts and activism. She has authored seven books and received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and two California Arts Council Artist in Residence grants.
In 2008, Gomez and her girlfriend, Diane Sabin, were among the plaintiffs seeking marriage equality who sued California for the legal right to marry.
In 2017, Gomez received the Barbary Coast Trailblazer Award from the LitQuake Literary Festival, and she was a 2018 community grand marshal for the San Francisco Pride Parade.