Cinema professor awarded Guggenheim Fellowship
In her own words, Cheryl Dunye, assistant professor of cinema at SF State, is a "queer black cinema artist committed to making work that pushes margins to the center." She's also a recent recipient of a prestigious 2016 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, awarded on the basis of demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts. She is among 175 U.S. scholars, artists and scientists chosen from a group of nearly 3,000 applicants.
Dunye is experiencing what she calls "midlife magic." She's celebrating the 20th anniversary of her award-winning first film, "The Watermelon Woman," the first African American, lesbian feature film ever made, which was recently remastered and featured at the San Francisco International Film Festival. She's turning 50. She's preparing to shoot a full-length film based on her 2014 short film "Black is Blue." And she is now a Guggenheim Fellow.
"This fellowship comes at a point where the body of work that I started so many years ago is at a midpoint," Dunye said. "The seeds have sprouted and the plant is growing, and I've grounded a place where people with my identities can express themselves in this medium." Dunye has more than 15 films to her credit, including "Mommy Is Coming," "The Owls," "Stranger Inside" and "My Baby's Daddy."
"Professor Dunye is an amazing filmmaker — an artist in every sense of the word," said Daniel Bernardi, interim dean of the College of Liberal and Creative Arts. "She is part of a faculty of filmmakers and scholars that make the School of Cinema world class. We are all basking in the light she brings to our University."
Professor Britta Sjogren, chair of the Department of Cinema and herself a 2006 recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, said the distinction of being a Guggenheim Fellow follows recipients for the rest of their lives — "opening doors, conferring honor, bolstering confidence to persevere despite the challenges that may yet arise in the course of realizing an ambitious project and establishing a credential of excellence that the whole world recognizes."
"The Guggenheim Fellowship is a tremendously competitive and influential award, life-changing in the sense that it confers on the recipient not only significant financial support for an important project, but also because it represents a kind of induction to a group of peers, past and present, who are considered at the top of their fields," Sjogren said.
Dunye said a portion of the financial support awarded through the fellowship will go toward "Black is Blue," and she hopes to begin production in Oakland before the end of the year.
"Cinema is a collaboration of all the arts, and that's what my work is about — collaborating with my communities," Dunye said.