Stranger Inside (2001): Cheryl Dunye’s Follow-up to The Watermelon Woman

Director Cheryl Dunye

Indie writer director Cheryl Dunye burst onto the New Queer Cinema scene in 1996 with The Watermelon Woman, an audaciously intriguing, self-styled feature.

Her rarely screened follow-up, Stranger Inside, made for HBO and produced by R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, is set within the US women’s prison system and tells the story of an incarcerated young African-American woman who goes in search of her biological mother.

Based on four years of research into the lives of women inside, it is a powerful study of prison life.

Unlike Scrubbers (1982) and Prisoner Cell Block H (1979-1986), Dunye’s film demonstrates how race and class have created a new caste system behind bars.