Temple film professor Cheryl Dunye’s career is relatively young, but her contributions to the film industry have captured the attention and accolades of critics and moviegoers worldwide.
She brought a fresh, humorous perspective to the lesbian community and black culture with The Watermelon Woman, a low-budget hit which won the Teddy Award for best feature film at the Berlin International Film Festival. Her first television feature, Stranger Inside, followed a mother-daughter relationship in the harsh setting of a correctional facility.
Her most recent effort, My Baby’s Daddy, opened in January to an impressive $7.5 million weekend gross.
When she’s not directing motion pictures, Dunye (pronounced DUNE-yey) is back in the classroom teaching film courses. After teaching at the University of California in Los Angeles, the California Institute of the Arts and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Dunye has returned to Philadelphia and Temple University. She currently teaches in Temple’s School of Communications and Theater.
“My enjoyment of both teaching and filmmaking is pretty balanced,” she said.
Dunye was born in Liberia but raised in Philadelphia. She graduated from Temple University in 1990. Two years later she received her Masters degree from Rutgers University.
Between 1990 and 2001, Dunye made eight films, including The Watermelon Woman and Stranger Inside. In the process of writing and directing her movies, she created a new genre entitled, “Dunyementary.” This is a combination of a traditional documentary, an artificial documentary, fictional film methods and Dunye herself.
In addition to her duties as a professor and director, Dunye is also the co-creator of Stranger Baby Productions, a company that promotes “alternative voices” in the film industry. Alexandra Juhasz, the other half of the creative mind behind the company, is a documentarian who has made more than 15 educational videos on topics ranging from teen pregnancy to the AIDS virus.
Dunye’s latest venture is a comedy called My Baby’s Daddy, starring Eddie Griffin and Anthony Anderson. This comedy follows the lives of three friends in Philadelphia who are forced to grow up and face the music when their girlfriends become pregnant. During the process of becoming fathers, they learn a thing or two about love and smoking pot while parenting.
From the seats of the audience to behind the scenes as a director, Dunye has accomplished everything. She is glad to be in both shoes.
“Both roles are important and directors are viewers,” she said.
For her next project, Dunye is working with Greenstreet Films on a project she describes as “Victor/Victoria meets 8 mile.” The project, tentatively titled One Bad Sistah, follows the story of a young woman who dresses up as man in order to succeed in the world of hip-hop.
From The Watermelon Woman to My Baby’s Daddy, Cheryl Dunye’s films focus on race, gender, sexual orientation and heritage, four issues that are incredibly important in today’s society.
For more information on Cheryl Dunye and her impressive resume, visit her Web site at www.cheryldunye.com.
My Baby’s Daddy is currently playing in theaters across the nation.
Marta Rusek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org