This week in Film — TESLA and Cheryl Dunye

In a world replete with fake news, alternative facts, and half-truths, it seems dangerous, almost reckless to champion works that play fast and loose with the truth and celebrate artificiality. But it is for those very reasons that they soar higher than the rest: They know cinema—be it documentary or narrative—is a fabrication. A construct. And a beautiful one at that. First up, a bio-pic unlike the rest, Tesla from writer/director Michael Almereyda:

Bio-pics are funny things. They purport to educate their audience factually — as if they’ve condensed 600 pages of academic research into two entertaining hours of sex and violence. Their style presents objectivity, but their results are far from it. You can feel the guiding hand of the subject (sometimes still living, sometimes protected by an estate) highlighting this moment over that, sanitizing that moment over this. It appears true but feels false.

Almereyda’s Tesla feels nothing of the sort.

Boulder Weekly Vol. 28, No. 1, “Everybody wants to rule the world

Ditto for the films of Cheryl Dunye and her slate of “Dunyementaries.” She’s currently has two features (The Watermelon Woman and The Owls) and six shorts streaming on The Criterion Channel.

Born in Liberia and raised in Philadelphia, Cheryl Dunye began her career at the tail end of the 1980s, right as the New Queer Cinema was putting down roots. Queer cinema had existed for decades, but mostly in Europe and in the underground cinema of the American independent scene. By the time critic B. Ruby Rich coined the term “New Queer Cinema” in 1992, the underground found its way up, and filmmakers like Dunye were at the forefront. Using emerging video technology, her work had the disarming aesthetic of a home movie paired with classic narrative construction.

Home viewing: Cheryl Dunye