Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

WANTED - Where Are They Now?


Christopher Scott Cherot, Wendell B Harris Jr, Cheryl Dunye, Cauleen Smith, Matty Rich, Julie Dash, Theodore Witcher, Seith Mann, etc, etc, etc...

Who else am I leaving out?

They are all black filmmakers from the last roughly 20 years, whose first films (whether shorts or features) attracted enough attention, whether locally, or internationally, engendering growing excitement and anticipation amongst film lovers everywhere, of promising careers ahead for each of them; but said promising careers never really fully materialized - certainly not in the same fashion as some of their white counterparts, like Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino, Bryan Singer, Darren Aronofsky and David Gordon Green, amongst many, many others.

Barry Jenkins and Dennis Dortch are both relatively new to the mix, with both still basking in the successes of their debuts; so, it's too early to make any predictions on either of them, which is why I didn't include them in the above list; however, I'm sure there are audience expectations of each, now that we've been exposed to their individual works.

Where are they all now? What are they working on? Are they still in the business, or have they given it all up altogether and gone into some other industry? Etc, etc, etc...

I heard Christopher Scott Cherot was working on another feature last year, but I know nothing about it, and can't find very much on it either.

Of course, I think we all know Wendell B Harris Jr's story by now. Check out his interview with Black Box Office from January, if you haven't already.

After Watermelon Woman in 1996, Cheryl Dunye directed 3 other features, including 2004's My Baby's Daddy, her only studio film.

Cauleen Smith, to my knowledge, didn't direct any other films after her debut, Drylongso in 1998. In the early 2000s, a script she completed was being shopped around for financing. I recall seeing it listed as a Tribeca All-Access Project a few years ago, and being very excited for her and for what I hoped would be a film I would eventually get to see. It was titled I Am Furious Black, with a synopsis that read, "A loner detective investigates the homicide of a media-shy graphic novelist who sabotages her own career to the detriment of her family, friends and business partner."

As for Matty Rich, I'm sure we're all somewhat familiar with his story. 1994's The Inkwell was his last film. I have no idea what he's been up to since then.

Julie Dash was a member of the late 70s/early 80s movement we now refer to as the Los Angeles School of Independent Black Filmmakers, which also included Charles Burnett, Haile Gerima and others, whose films were the antithesis of the films of the era in which they "came of age" - specifically the Blaxploitation decade. Dash's premiere opus, 1991's Daughters Of The Dust, was included in the National Film Registry in 2004, a coveted, considerable honor to be bestowed upon any film/filmmaker. She's directed some TV programming since Daughters, most notably 2002's The Rosa Parks Story, which starred Angela Bassett. But, not much else that I'm aware of. I'd love to see anything else she's done since her debut. Daughters was certainly an auspicious start.

Theodore Witcher practically disappeared after Love Jones, an unbelievable feat, given just how successful that film was and has been. I don't know any black person in this country who hasn't heard of, or seen Love Jones. And it repeatedly shows up on "Best Of Black Cinema" lists from coast to coast. So, what happened? I don't know. One would think the success of his first film would have made it easier for him to make his second, but maybe the studios just weren't biting hard enough.

Seith Mann is the only one on this list whose "career maker" was a short film - 5 Deep Breaths, a deftly-handled 20-minute film that aimed to challenge black masculinity. That was in 2003; the film singlehandedly catapulted Mr Mann to an almost assured Hollywood career, after playing at just about every major film festival that exists locally and across borders, including being the only American short film that played at the Cannes Film Festival the year it was accepted. Filmmaker magazine named Mann one of their 25 new faces of independent film in 2003. The IFP gave Mann the Gordon Parks Awards for Emerging African-American Filmmakers. A year or so later, a feature-length screenplay he wrote, titled, Come Sunday, won two development awards from the IFP, and it certainly looked like Mann was on his way. Since then, he's directed a lot of TV programming, notably a few episodes of the hit HBO show, The Wire, as well as Greys Anatomy for ABC, Heroes, Cold Case, Entourage, and others. So, clearly, he's working, and hopefully getting paid well! Although I certainly hope that we get to see his work on the big screen someday soon, and he doesn't get stuck directing for television for most of his career. Not that he'll have failed if he does stay in television primarily; I'd certainly love to be working in the industry in any manner. However, I'd say that the writer/director of 5 Deep Breaths deserves a grander stage!

I think my initialy list above should be longer than it is; but, again, I can't think of any other names that belong; so, feel free to throw out any that I missed who fit the criteria. And if you have any further info on anyone mentioned here, do share. Or if your name has been mentioned, inquiring minds would love to know what you've been up to.


  1. SolShine7 said...

    The Inkwell, wow...that takes me back. I think I saw that when I was in middle school.

  2. Sergio said...

    Without going into detail I know that Witcher had some personal problems that took him out of the game for quite a while, but just last week I was told that he's has new feature he's currently developing with that Jeffrey Wright is attached to.

    As for Matty Rich, the stories I heard about the making of that film in effect made him persona-non-grata in the business

  3. Undercover Black Man said...

    Don't cry for Seith Mann. From the look of those credits, he's on the TV-directing A-list... which means he's making a quite good living.

    I seem to remember that Matty Rich had gotten into the videogame business??

  4. Geniusbastard said...

    Cauleen Smith is a good friend of mine. After things stalled on I Am Furious Black, she took a teaching position in Austin at the U of T. From there she went to Boston, and now she's teaching in San Diego.

    What's key here though is that she essentially gave up on the film business, despite winning a Spirit Award, getting into the Sundance Lab, and so on. Now she considers herself a video artist and has abandoned any plans to make narrative features in the film business (meaning both Hollywood and Indiewood). She's had several installations at museums, is involved in ambitious video projects and is doing well. She's happy in the art world; after all, Cauleen started in the Northern Cal experimental world so it was no stretch for her to go that route. Personally, I always wished she'd stuck it out, the world needs films like I Am Furious Black, but I respect and understand her decision. I think it says a lot that someone like Cauleen, with her prodigious amount of talent and drive was ultimately disenchanted (disgusted, really) with the film world even though she had been granted entry into the palace.

    I ran into Seith Mann at the Arclight here in Hollywood a few months back. He's doing fine, directing TV, with plans to make a feature at some point.

  5. Geniusbastard said...

    Cheryl Dunye will be appearing at REDCAT (the performance space located in Disney Hall here in L.A.) for a special screening of her film The Watermelon Woman on May 11, 2009. She directed a few features after that film, but I haven't seen anything new from her in a while.

  6. voyage2atlantis said...

    lol you suck i was just thinking of doing a post like this after watching bmc's blood on the wall$ and checking his resume. i was like what happened to all those filmmakers and whatnot. yea man it's all so interesting. i think there was a time more people were giving out money or something.

  7. Invisible Woman said...

    @mlm: yes there was a time in the early 90's where they were throwing money at Black directors; little investment, good return (usually at least 4x the investment), I remember keeping track pretty closely. Don't know why they stopped tho.

    Matty Rich is in the video game business, as UBM said. He pretty much killed his movie career through his non-existent social skills...maybe he can come back like Mickey Rourke.

  8. The Black Box Office said...

    Matty We should all put our stories together and do an update!

Post a Comment