Cheryl Dunye’s Mommy Is Coming

Cheryl Dunye, Mommy Is Coming, 2012, still from a color video, 65 minutes. Hans Eberhardt (Wieland Speck) and Helen Eberhardt (Maggie Tapert).

“BLACK FEMALE FILMMAKER” might be the most obvious label with which to describe Cheryl Dunye, but it fails to capture the way in which she explodes categorical pieties, not only regarding medium but also in terms of sexual and racial politics. In the early 1990s, Dunye became known for experimental videos that frankly and humorously addressed black lesbian sexuality, such as She Don’t Fade, 1991, and The Potluck and the Passion, 1993. These short videos were shown in art contexts (including the Whitney Biennial) and played in queer film festivals around the world. Dunye’s breakthrough mock documentary, The Watermelon Woman (1996), which she wrote, directed, and acted in, was heralded as the first African-American lesbian feature ever made. The film’s scrambling of fiction and reality to create speculative histories and challenge the truth claims of representation has become

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