This past Saturday at the 3rd Annual Queer Women of Color Film Festival in San Francisco, out filmmakers Cheryl Dunye (The Watermelon Woman, Stranger Inside) and Tina Mabry (Brooklyn’s Bridge to Jordan, Itty Bitty Titty Committee) and Sundance senior programmer Shari Frilot joined together at a panel to discuss Representations of Queer Black Women in the Media. The panel and its after-party were a veritable who’s who in queer black filmmaking. Here’s a shot of Dunye along with JengoTV‘s Kamika Dunlap and Debra Wilson (Butch Mystique):
Dunye, Frilot and Mabry stressed the importance of queer women of color just getting out there and doing it — making the films they want to see. Dunye said that she was motivated to make movies "because I wasn’t being represented the way that I [wanted]." She recalled the feeling of "wanting to put myself in the picture and literally having to do it because nobody else was going to do it for me."
Mabry, who co-wrote this summer’s indie release Itty Bitty Titty Committee, attended film school at USC, where she quipped that there were only three black lesbians in her class ("and I was partnered with one of them"), but even though there was no established queer black community at USC to support her, nonetheless nobody stopped her from making her award-winning short film Brooklyn’s Bridge to Jordan (watch it here on Logoonline.com).
Tina Mabry and Shari Frilot
Frilot, who admitted that as a Puerto Rican-Creole lesbian, she often felt as though she slipped through the cracks in representation, nonetheless didn’t let that stop her from making films. When she first began working at Sundance, she wondered whether her outsider perspective was too marginal for the huge festival, but she discovered that it was precisely her outsider perspective that made her valuable. "If you follow your heart and be original, you’d be surprised how much people want to work with you," she said.
"I didn’t think I had anything to offer L.A., Hollywood, that entire town because of where I was coming from, but it turns out it’s my greatest asset," she explained. "They really want somebody who’s thinking differently. They really wanted to work with somebody who was working in what they call ‘alternative’ circles … to actually bring a new, fresh perspective. They’re secretly bored with what they’re doing!"
QWOCMAP founder Madeleine Lim and panel moderator and author Jewelle Gomez
The filmmakers also suggested several resources for queer women filmmakers who want to get their work out there. In addition to the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project, which provides free training for queer women of color every year in San Francisco (the program has created 93 films since it began in 2000), filmmakers can find support through IFP.org, distribution options through alternative channels such as Women’s Independent Cinema and Third World Newsreel, and loads of info specifically for African-American women filmmakers at Sisters in Cinema.
So what are you waiting for? Go forth and make your movies! Just be sure to come back and tell us about them, too.