The Lenny Interview: Professor Cheryl Dunye

Friday, May 20, 2016
LENNY -- It's surprising to learn that “The Watermelon Woman” was made up. The credits read, "Sometimes you have to create your own history. ‘The Watermelon Woman’ is fiction." Dunye and cinematographer Michelle Crenshaw created authentic-feeling archival footage that brings the actress to life and talking-head interviews that make the faux-documentary aspects pulse. Perspectives switch, the picture alternates between video and celluloid and there are spirited dance interludes: It's a queer, postmodern conversation across time, one that gives legacy and celebrity to disregarded identities. Dunye, now a professor at San Francisco State, remains an incredible filmmaker and creator. “I think ‘The Watermelon Woman’ had the right balance with narrative and experimentation. This film plays equally at film festivals as it does in art settings. I'm really happy about that because that's really what I am. I make cinema. Making cinema allows you to do those experiments. Making movies doesn't.”