Professor Cheryl Dunye on Her Groundbreaking Film The Watermelon Woman, 20 Years Later

Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Still of Cheryl Dunye from The Watermelon Woman

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- Not being seen gave her a bit of freedom to craft a uniquely black and lesbian tale on camera during a time period when black lesbians were nowhere to be found on film or television. But it’s been 20 years, and as Hollywood has surely changed, it too has remained very much the same: There is still a dearth of black lesbian, and gay, bisexual and transgender, representation.

“I think [the film] lives on for that reason, because people still don’t know what a black queer person looks like, unless it’s a farcical, drag queeny, commercial way,” said Dunye, 50. “That’s not all that we are. We’re a varied, beautiful ‘rainbow’ of identities.”

And though Dunye, now a professor at San Francisco State University, was invited to become a member of the film academy earlier this year — it’s largest and most diverse class to date — it’s important to her to remain dedicated to working outside the traditional system.