A funny, mysterious and humane generational anthem.
This was the official website for Cheryl Dunye’s 2010 melodrama, The OWLS. Pioneering feminist filmmaker Cheryl Dunye directed this independent drama about four women struggling to make sense of their past and live down one particular evening.
The new owners of this domain wanted to keep this information about The OWLS visible on the WWW.
Content is from the site's 2010 archived pages, as well as from many other outside sources.
Director Cheryl Dunye
Writers Sarah Schulman, Cheryl Dunye
Producers Candi Guterres, Ernesto M. Foronda, Alexandra Juhasz, Augusta Einarsdottir, Cheryl Dunye
Co-Producers Molly Sturdevant, Skip Snow
Cinematographer Alison Kelly
Cast Guinevere Turner, V.S. Brodie, Lisa Gornick, Deak Evgenikos
THE OWLS (2010) - Official Trailer
A funny, mysterious and humane generational anthem starring some of the most popular underground artists in Lesbian Cinema: Guinevere Turner (GO FISH, The L WORD, AMERICAN PSYCHO), V.S. Brodie (GO FISH), Lisa Gornick (TICK TOCK LULLABY) and Deak Evgenikos (The ITTY BITTY TITTY COMMITTEE).
The OWLS’ screenplay is by novelist Sarah Schulman and is based on a story by writer/director/professor Cheryl Dunye (THE WATERMELON WOMAN, SHE DON’T FADE, STRANGER INSIDE.)
Raised in the shadow of “pathological lesbian” films like THE FOX, THE CHILDREN'S HOUR and THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE, the OWLs once embraced the utopian vision of Lesbian Nation. Now, approaching middle age, the revolution has eluded their dreams. Caught between a culture that still has no place for them, and a younger generation indifferent to their contributions, the OWLs face an emotionally complex set of circumstances that have yet to be compassionately and truthfully addressed.
Made for $22,000, THE OWLS is a collective act, re-thinking how to make films that matter outside the system. “We created our own system, peopled by lesbians, queers and people of color, film professionals all raising themes about aging as well as inter-generational dialogue; loneliness and community; dreams raised and deferred; butch/trans anxiety; cross-racial and inter-racial desire and strain; and the history of lesbian cinema and self-representation.” —The Owls Parliament
Shot entirely on location in Los Angeles, Cheryl Dunye, Alexandra Juhasz, Candi Guterres and Ernesto Foronda invited a diverse but inter-connected group of lesbian/queer artists to come together to form The Parliament Film Collective and collaborate on a work that reflects their lived collective experience.
Author Sarah Schulman reflects “Cheryl gave me the opportunity to work on a moody, psychological piece about our generation, and when I heard the storyline, I jumped at the chance. I was the oldest of about sixty people, most working for free and at our own expense. I wrote a 72-page script in New York, got out to LA. They housed me in Jamie Babbit's pool house, which was classic ‘Hollywood.’”
Director Cheryl Dunye notes: “The inspiration for making THE OWLS film project had been on my mind for quite some time. It transpired from my fascination with the negative portrayal of lesbians characters in film history, the huge gaps in queer culture between ‘those who fought to create our identities’ and ‘those who simply live it,’ as well as a lack of any cinema creating new ways of storytelling and producing that falls outside of the commercial and independent cinema worlds. At the end of the day THE OWLS, for me, was a catch twenty-two in a way. Sometimes you get what you fought for politically and creatively in making your mark on lesbian cinema as I did with THE WATERMELON WOMAN and then it shoots you in the head leaving you buried six feet under the lesbian culture that you helped create. That's why I created THE OWLS. And as a filmmaker I felt the best way to express this was to gather up the important faces in lesbian film, past and present, form a collective, and create a ‘dunyementary’ about it.”
Dunye's first feature, THE WATERMELON WOMAN, like THE OWLS, premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival where it won the Teddy award for best Gay and Lesbian feature.
The OWLs. A generational anthem for Older Wiser Lesbians, aging revolutionaries in a world they cannot control. A funny, humane look at the bonds that restrain, and the dreams that remains.
The OWLs is a generational anthem for Older Wiser Lesbians. Raised in the shadow of “the pathological lesbian” films like THE FOX, THE CHILDREN’S HOUR and THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE, these women embraced the utopian vision of Lesbian Nation and came out with great optimism in their relationships, work, and daily lives. Now, approaching middle age, the revolution has eluded their dreams. Caught between a culture that still has no place for them, and a younger generation of lesbians and queers who are indifferent to their contributions, OWLs are facing a unique set of circumstances that have yet to be compassionately or truthfully addressed.
Ten years ago, The Screech was the hottest lesbian band on the scene. IRIS and LILY fronted, MJ produced, and their one hit record bought two houses in the desert. When Lily's drug use got out of hand, she found CAROL and sought refuge in the privacy and isolation of that relationship. Iris and MJ, however, never fully retired from the rock star lifestyle. Even though they broke up two years before, they just can't get away from each other. Sexy, seductive Iris, hides behind the bottle while dreaming of a comeback that is never going to happen. MJ, still in love with her, spends her days having Internet sex and staring at the ever-empty shimmering pool. Carol and Lily are so bored in their relationship that they can't think of anything to do but plan to have a child.
Into this timber box stumbles CRICKET, a belligerent lost twenty-something who is looking for trouble, and finds it. A coke-filled drunken pool party at Iris and MJ's deteriorates into the usual scenario. Iris gets plastered, comes on to a convenient stranger and MJ suffers in silence in a corner. But this night MJ just had too much to drink, and lunges at Cricket, who is not the type to cower. When Cricket throws a punch, MJ finally has the excuse she's been longing for to let out her rage & the ensuing chaos results with Cricket ending up dead on the pool's deck.
Despite their conflicts, these four women still have a bond, somewhere between family and gang. They work together to hide the body, burying it in a ditch under the pool, and filling in the grave with cement. Now linked by more than the ties of time, they are conspirators in a dangerous game. This all comes to a head, one year later when Iris finds Cricket's face on Missing Persons signs taped up outside her favorite liquor store. Soon after, SKYE, a mysterious butch stranger appears at Lily and Carol's door. Revenge is her goal and seduction is her strategy. Lily, who still has a pull towards a more dynamic life, lets her fantasies run wild, and Skye manages to change these four lives forever.
Intercut with the scripted drama, are the actresses own experiences of the desires and disappointments at play in the film, as they too become part of the extended community of experience that has so influenced that generation.
Concept: The Parliament
In response to the limitations and frustrations of corporate filmmaking, filmmakers Cheryl Dunye, Alex Juhasz, Candi Guterres & Ernesto Foronda invited a diverse but inter-connected group of lesbian & queer artists to come together as The Parliament Film Collective. They attracted a large queer, multi-racial community, at all levels of professional & artistic development, interested in working together to engage in a group experience and create great art. Together they developed a tale of desires gone awry, the pain of hindsight, and the ever- present tension between acceptance and rebellion.
Building upon Cheryl Dunye's signature narrative/documentary hybrid style, the "Dunyementary," The OWLs flows from the scripted dramatic action, enhanced by the actresses own takes on how these same questions play out in their lives. In this way, the literal collective of lesbian/queer artists who made The OWLs also influence the meaning of the film, reflecting the community relationships that have been so defining in the growth of this generation.
REVIEWS from letterboxd.com/
The Owls 2010 Directed by Cheryl Dunye
Four “Owls” (older, wiser lesbians) who are living in the faded aftermath of their glory days as a once-famous rock group, are all implicated in a crime.
Cast: Guinevere Turner Deak Evgenikos V.S. Brodie Lisa Gornick Cheryl Dunye Skyler Cooper
Review by Aster
An existential murder mystery a la reality TV, complete with unbelievable "natural" staging. As much about how it was produced as the ideas and feelings that it explores. To call it "meta" feels like a slight, as that term has lost its currency in the era of meta-communication. I'm increasingly interested in filmmakers who utilize the banality of HD video for artistic and philosophical effect. The opening of THE OWLS is comprised of archival footage of ACT UP and a lesbian punk band, the quality of the outmoded formats provides a texture that not only imbues the images with an aesthetic, but meaning given the context of the film that explores sentiments of meaninglessness in the contemporary milieu. The digital is always banal and cheap looking, but Dunye belongs to that set of filmmakers who transform this into a cinematic asset (this would make a killer double feature with MAPS TO THE STARS).
Review by beca ★½
I really wanted to like this but I think, as a narrative film, it doesn't work. Although it advertises itself as a murder mystery story, The Owls spends more time on talking head bits in which the actors in the film talk about their personal history with being queer and/or lesbians and about their characters motivations than it does on actually expanding its fictional characters and their stories through the film's story or dialogue. As a piece of experimental filmmaking it's interesting for its ideas about how the LGBT community has changed over the years, but there's a lot of disconnect here with what's being said in reality versus what's being said in the world of the film.
I genuinely think this would have worked better as a documentary with a few acted out scenes relating to the dialogue happening between Dunye and the actors than it does as a "mystery/thriller." It would certainly be a less confused film, if nothing else.
Aesthetically, I really loved the opening credits. If the film was reworked to remove the talking head segments, I would have loved to see a narrative film matching that kind of energy and style.
Review by jacob mouradian
If THE WATERMELON WOMAN is Dunye at her most refined, then THE OWLS might be her at her most unrestrained.
The story that unfolds is not really what gives the film substance, but rather it's the fourth-wall-breaking interludes that allow us peaks into all of the womens' individual psyches. It plays like a novel reads (which makes sense, as co-writer Schulman is a prolific queer novelist in her own right), allowing us that shifting first-person point of view that offers emotional context to the immediacy of the present. Dunye's mashed-up, open-faced, quasi-documentary style is endlessly intriguing and it works as a great hook, because just when it starts to feel too amateurish and uninteresting she uses it to pull you back under through the dense thematic waters, giving you three more things to mull over after just solving one. Giving you slack, then reeling you back in.
The intersection of race, gender, and sexuality is ever-present but as with her later works gender expression and presentation have pushed themselves to a more prominent position. In doing so, an incredible sense of nuance to each of the OWLs' littlest tics: a sideways glance or a pregnant pause suddenly carries so much more weight. This set-up can also be seen as symbolic of a current generational shift, and how the understanding of queer identity is changing in a way that can leave our elders feeling a bit out of date – a morphing of the aging/mid-life crisis archetype into one about the disappearance of your own identity, and the chaos that entails.
From a technical standpoint this is rather rough, but Dunye still shows her knack for experimentation through the editing possibilities of digital video. It might be a bit garish at times, but it's hard to fault someone for thinking outside the box.
I've still gotta mull this one over for a bit. Dunye has yet to make a bad film in my eyes, but this might be the most challenging of her work to pin down.
Review by Lyn Jensen ★★
The Owls isn't so much a film to like or not like, it's more like a director's experiment, put before audiences with the goal of attracting investors for a more ambitious movie. Cheryl Dunye, a black woman director, breaks several dramatic and cinematic rules while telling the story of "The Owls," a clique of older and (supposedly) wiser lesbians who suffer the consequences after one commits a crime. Film buffs are encouraged to check out Dunye's other work as well.
CHERYL DUNYE – Writer / Director / Producer
Cheryl Dunye, a native of Liberia, holds an MFA from Rutgers University. Her 3rd feature film, Miramax’s My Baby’s Daddy, was a box office success. Her 2nd feature, HBO Films Stranger Inside, garnered her an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Director. Cheryl Dunye’s debut film, The Watermelon Woman, was awarded the Teddy Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. Her other works have premiered at film festivals & museums worldwide.
Dunye served on the boards of Outfest, the DGA, and IFP. She has been honored with a Community Vision Award from National Center for Lesbian Rights, a Creative Excellence Award from Women in Film & Television, and a Fusion Award from Outfest.
Cheryl was selected as one of the 2008 Power-Up Top 10 Women In Showbiz and one of the 2009 Go Magazine’s 100 Women We Love. Cheryl has just completed work on The OWLs, a lesbian noir thriller about butch menopause, relationships & murder, which has been the first feature to come out of The Parliament Film Collective.
CAROL (44) Black feminism saved her life, and now she wants love, peace and family. She is willing to go through all kinds of machinations to keep her relationship with Lisa, and has learned to not make waves. Contented with small things, she's slowing down and marveling at the garden, the sunset, the beauty of her partner.
LILY (40) British and Jewish, she’s got a special combination of intensity and prissiness. A legitimate rock star for one minute, she still gestures towards her radical days in her clothing and hair, but recently has been following her more practical side. Lily’s problem is that she still feels passion and may be capable of throwing it all away for one last ride of true feelings.
IRIS (42) probably the smartest and most talented of the bunch, Iris’s alcoholism is killing her as her few remaining friends stand by and watch. She’s lost her self, and just acts out from some illusion of someone she once wanted to be: the “wild girl.” But now it’s denial, not freedom that drives her actions.
MJ (43) was a great producer when things were going her way, but never learned to deal with obstacles and frustrations. MJ has no ability to recoup. She wants to have a better life, but is on the carousel of falling on and off the wagon as a substitute for real change. Considers getting back together with Iris, simply because it’s may be the path of least resistance. No resilience.
SKYE (30-something) uses her charm first. Has a cut and dried sense of morality, and follows her own orders. Walks into a room, assesses who is vulnerable to her beauty, and then goes in for the kill. A user.
CRICKET (20-something but looks younger) one of the tribes of lost lesbian kids. Kicked out of her family, in her nowhere town, is accountable to nothing and no one is accountable to her. Destined to fall off the cliff.
The Cast: Bios
CHERYL DUNYE - CAROL
Cheryl Dunye is a native of Philadelphia, born in Liberia on May 13, 1966. She received a BA from Temple U. & an MFA from Rutgers University's Mason Gross School of the Arts.
Cheryl began her acting career by starring in her own films. In 1991, she wrote, directed & starred in She Don’t Fade, a short film that experiments with narrative and doc, and takes a self-reflective look at the sexuality of a young black lesbian. By 1996, Dunye again, set out to write, direct and star in her own film, this time a full-length feature called The Watermelon Woman. Her film
became the first African-American lesbian feature film made. It went on to win a Teddy for Best Feature at the Berlin International Film Festival and an Audience Award at L.A.
Cheryl Dunye is a film director, producer, screenwriter, editor & actress. She has made acting appearances in numerous films such as The New Women (2001), The Watermelon Woman (1996), Strange Weather (1993), and She Don’t Fade (1991). http://www.cheryldunye.com
LISA GORNICK - LILY
Lisa Gornick is a filmmaker from London that writes, directs and stars in her own films such as Do I Love You? (2003) and Tick Tock Lullaby (2007). Both films went on to win multiple awards in the film festival circuits and have worldwide distribution. In 1999, she began to make short films including The 12 Steps of Starting a Religion and My Primary Lover Never Hollywood Kissed Me, which won the Best Short Film Award at
Philadelphia Intʼl Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Do I Love You? (6 min. version) was runner-up for the JVC Short Film Prize at the Portobello Film Festival.
In 2000, Lisa set up a digital film production company called Valiant Doll. Since Tick Tock Lullaby, she has written a third feature film, which is in pre-production at the moment, and is in early development stages on a fourth film. http://www.valiantdoll.com.uk
GUINEVERE TURNER - IRIS
Guinevere Turner's career began as writer, producer & star of the feature film Go Fish, which premiered at Sundance, 1994, in dramatic competition. She co-wrote the film with Rose Troche, for whom she leant her voice as a doll, in Troche's feature film The Safety of Objects. From then on, Guinevere started a career in writing, acting, directing & producing.
Turner went on to collaborate with director Mary Harron on the screenplay adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho, in which she co-starred. Her next effort with Harron The Notorious Bettie Page was an
HBO film, directed by Harron & produced by Christine Vachon who also served as exec producer on Go Fish. Turner's additional film credits include roles in Kiss Me, Guido, Latin Boys Go To Hell, Pipe Dream, The Watermelon Woman, The Fluffer, The Itty Bitty Titty Committee, a dominatrix in Preaching To The Perverted for BAFTA-winning director Stuart Urban, as well as roles in filmmaker friend Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy and Dogma. Her feature script Blood Rayne, based on a video game was released in January 2006, and stars Ben Kingsley & Michelle Rodriguez. She worked for 2 seasons as executive story editor on the TV series The L Word, on which she also had a recurring role. Two of her directorial efforts, the short films, Spare Me and Hummer, premiered at the Sundance Film Festivals 2001 and 2004. The other three, writer/director efforts, such as Hung, Late, and Quiet Please, have screened at film festivals worldwide. GT is currently at work on several projects, including a TV pilot, a feature script to direct, and a cooking show called The Decadent Vegetarian, which stars Guinevere and includes her sidekick Charlie, who is a talking chicken. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0877587/
V.S. BRODIE - MJ
V.S. Brodie played the role of Ely in the 1994 film Go Fish, for which she earned the 1995 Independent Spirit Award nomination for “best supporting actress”, as well as served as associate producer for Go Fish. In 1996, Brodie had a brief cameo in Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman.
V.S. continued to work in indie films, most notably for Christine Vachon & assisted in the production of Safe, Stonewall, and Postcards from America. In 1998, V.S. Brodie moved to Paris, where she currently resides, and is the chef and co-owner of The Catering Company.
DEAK EVGENIKOS - CRICKET
Dark, brooding new-comer Deak Evgenikos, made her feature film debut in The Itty Bitty Titty Committee as Meat. It was Deak's second experience working with director Jamie Babbit. The first was during the filming of Hummer, a short film Babbit collaborated on with Guinevere Turner. Award winning, Hummer premiered with rave reviews at Sundance 2003. Deak's second
short film, Hung was also written & directed by Turner, and shot in 2005. Hung can currently be seen on The Sundance Channel. Deak went on to work with the critically acclaimed director, Silas Howard, in the short film, Frozen Smile.
2006 brought a rapid-fire series of commercial work for Deak such as a national IPOD commercial, an International Apple Computer ad and several commercials on the Logo TV Network. Most recently she was cast in Tony Scott's The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3. In addition to her growing film career, Deak has competed professionally as a figure skater, is a Muay-Thai national champion fighter, as well as an inter-continental and multi-lingual entrepreneur. She currently resides in New York City. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1983291/
SKYLER COOPER - SKYE
Trained in classical & contemporary theatre, Skyler Cooper discovered early on, that “androgynous appeal” would be the nexus in her body of work at playing male & female roles.
In theatre, Skyler played the roles of Athena-Argonautica (Berkeley Repertory Theater), Lattrell Spreewell (S.F. Playhouse), Queen Miss Prism (CA Shakespeare Company), and Othello-Othello (Impact Theater). In film, Skyler has been cast in both male & female roles. She’s played a female on a TV pilot, Don't Go, a male on Cocktails, a female in a film The Insomniacs, and a female named Fredericka, in the film Fredericka.
Skyler is determined & committed to bring, not only her unique look, but also a fresh perspective to her work, experiencing life as a woman & yet being perceived, by many, as a male. Skyler Cooper is a unique actor & an artistic creation of nature. Her art is to mirror the world, honestly & truthfully. You can expect Skyler’s performances to be a shattering of the proverbial "glass ceiling" that limit the expression of many female & male roles in the industry today. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1728229/