Interview with filmmaker Leslie Cunningham
I have been making short films for a little over five years now. Under the auspices of TRIBES Entertainment Films, I have directed and produced a number of shows for the Triangle’s Friday evening public access television broadcast covering local arts and community events.
How did you get started in film?
Tell us a little bit about your film. What's it about?
Why did you make this particular movie?
I made this particular film because although I have never performed in drag, some of my good friends are the ‘kings’ and ‘queens’ I have met on nightclubs stages across the country. At times a gender-bender in my private life and ‘out’ in the community, the subject matter of drag performance and gender identity within and beyond the LGBTQ community and particularly for lesbian women of color, was immediately relevant to me. As I came to know my subject, I guess you could say it was easy for me to pick up my camera and head backstage to enter this strange and confusing world of illusion and to ultimately tell the story of Nation Tyre.
Which filmmakers have most influenced your work?
The filmmakers I have been most influenced by are Michael Moore; Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese. I also like the documentary work of Ramona Diaz, Jennie Livingston and Morgan Spurlock.
What is it like seeing your own work in theatres or at film festivals?
Seeing my own work in theatres and at film festivals is an absolutely amazing experience that has torn away the last of the walls obscuring my mission of being a full-time filmmaker.
What films are you excited about seeing at the NCGLFF?
I am excited about seeing Mosquita Y Mari, Cloudburst and Margarita.
What would you be doing if you weren't making movies?
If I weren’t making film, I’d be a fulltime writer/journalist devoted to independent artistry and community activism. Check out my publication, TRIBES Magazine (tribesmagazine.com)!
What's next for you?
What’s next is I am making the film that has become my life’s work about a "jig" show called Harlem in Havana (www.harleminhavana.com) which documents the legacy of my grandfather, Leon Claxton, the ‘Bronze Ziegfeld’ of Chicago, and one of the twentieth century’s most successful traveling show producers.