A significant figure in independent and gay cinema, writer-director Cheryl Dunye examined the perception of her lesbian and African-American identity through a series of thought-provoking and frequently humorous features. She grew up in Philadelphia and received a master’s degree from Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts. Dunye began her film career with a series of short films that freely mixed documentary elements with fiction – a format she dubbed “dunyementaries” – as they addressed issues relating to her experience as a woman filmmaker and an African-American lesbian.
Her unique style also informed her feature film debut, The Watermelon Woman (1996). A critical hit as well as a recipient of the Best Feature Film Award at the Berlin International Film Festival, it was briefly the source of controversy when a Michigan Republican senator spoke out against the National Endowment for the Arts funding for what he perceived as “pornographic material”. Her follow up, Stranger Inside (2001) was a made-for-cable drama that proved a hit on the festival circuit. Duyne continued to address issues of sexuality and identity with humor in Mommy is Coming (2012) and has directed numerous episodes of television shows. As of 2020, she is in pre-production on a new film.