A high security prison doesn’t seem like a place you’d ask to go. But that’s where Treasure Lee wants to be transferred, thinking she’ll find the mother she never met. Hardened by years of imprisonment, Brownie has a new family with a wife and daughters who work for her, dealing drugs and paying off the guards. She will prove to be as hard on Treasure as on her adopted daughters.
A filmmaker and a professor at UCLA, Cheryl Dunye has taught in women’s prisons. This is certainly what makes the film so « real, » with documentary-like scenes that the precise dialogues and tightly structured scenario never belie. Cheryl Dunye tried to depict the corruption, violence, racism and loneliness of this ruthless environment without inflicting it on her characters, never allowing the camera to become a voyeuristic instrument of oppression. Sex is also part of the picture. But there are no rape or love stories for these women whose homosexuality is just a fact of prison life.
In her first feature-length production, Cheryl Dunye introduced herself as a black lesbian filmmaker intent on having her voice heard. The Watermelon Woman (1996) was an ambitious, intelligent and original film crippled by a visible lack of funds. Her second film takes us to another level. Financed by HBO, it will be aired on the 23rd of June and reach a larger audience in one evening than The Watermelon Woman did in one year of festival release. With its clean-cut photography and linear narrative, Stranger Inside means to speak to everyone. You don’t need to be Black, queer or an ex-con to be deeply moved by characters whose outer toughness is no protection for the wounds of betrayal. Yolanda Ross (Treasure Lee) and Davenia McFadden (Brownie) give outstanding performances in a film dedicated to America’s silent voices. Stranger Inside expresses the need to tell the story of the alienated. « I intentionally included women, people of color and queers in the production of my film stranger babies are what we call them: these are the people who are not included in the status quo of what we see. Who else is going to give us a voice but us? » Working for HBO as a black woman and a lesbian, we can say that this stranger got her foot in the door, and even managed to pry it open.
Stranger Inside. Written and directed by Cheryl Dunye. With Yolanda Ross (Treasure Lee) and Davenia McFadden (Brownie). Director of Photography: Nancy Schreiber. Producer: Shari Frilot and Kimber Wheeler. An HBO production.///Article N° : 5612