Pride On Film: black./womyn:Conversations with lesbians of African descent

PrideIndex recently caught up with writer and director Tiona McClodden to discuss her outstanding film “black./womyn.: conversations with lesbians of African descent.”  The inspiration for this documentary came due to the fact that she did not access to many black lesbian women outside of a small club in Greenville, SC where grew up. She explains, “There were no LGBT centers and there are still none in the area so I promised myself that once I could learn and gain access to the tools required to create films this would be the first project that I would put out. I thought of what kind of film my younger self could have benefitted from and tried to make that kind of film.” “Black./womyn.:” has receiving numerous awards on both the nationally and international film festival circuits, if you have not seen it you’re in for an experience that’s both inspirational and informative. Here’s what Tiona had to say about it and her latest project “Untitled Black Lesbian Elder Project.“

PRIDEINDEX: What do you want audiences to take away from the documentary “black./womyn?”

TIONA MCCLODDEN: I wanted to create a fly on the wall experience with regards to the conversations I had with each of the women, so I would hope that folks can experience that feeling. I also wanted to present images and dialogue that was straight from the mouth of the community without any filters.

PI: How many stories are featured and how did you find these subjects?

TM: There are 50 women included in the film, though I interviewed close to 100. The way I secured the women ranged from friends, open calls, and by me personally asking women I felt could bring a certain perspective or aesthetic to the film.

PI: What criterion did you use to determine which stories to include in the film?

TM: The criteria pretty much rested at the women having to be Black, Lesbian, and Out. I also wanted women who could talk about themselves openly and honestly. Other than those things I was pretty open with who I spoke with.

PI:  Why did you become a filmmaker?

TM: I wanted to bring to life and explore the various issues and ideas I had in my mind and present them in a visual format. I also grew up reading a ton of books and was and still am a pretty serious daydreamer, so creating those images visually was the most logical next step for me.

PI: Where did you receive your formalized training?

TM: I studied with a mentor for about 2 ½ years after dropping out of college. He made sure that I had a technical foundation to be able to explore the topics that I was interested in creating films about.

PI: Name at least 3 people who have influenced your artistic style.

TM: Toni Morrison, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, {Chinese director/writer/and producer) and Zora Neale Hurston.

PI:  If you could work alongside any filmmaker living or dead who would choose and why?

TM: Hou Hsiao-Hsien  I’d like to see how he directs his actors. His films are generally minimal and very realist. They also have beautiful long takes that set a tone that I admire in his all of his films.

PI: I’ve heard about your currently project “Untitled Black Lesbian Elder Project” tell me more about it.

TM: “Untitled Black Lesbian Elder Project” is a feature-length documentary film that will highlight interviews with black lesbian elders in their 60s, 70s and 80s from across the United States and situate them in a range of black historical movements, spanning the decades between the 1930s and 1980s. The film will feature 8-10 profiles of elders, and show accompanying archival footage and personal ephemera that will reveal rare images of black lesbian life and history. UBLEP will also bring to light a number of black lesbian underground movements, solidifying a black lesbian presence within overall American black history.

PI: How did you come up with idea for the project?

TM: It wasn’t an original idea of mine actually. Lisa approached me to take over the project as it existed in another form in late 2008 via phone after viewing my film ‘black./womyn.’ She had started working on it as a part of here master thesis work while in grad school in the late 90s. I had also experience some strong reluctance from the elder black lesbian community when producing ‘black./womyn.’ and thought UBLEP could rectify that through the format of another film. So we met face to face in spring 2009 and I convinced her to collaborate with me instead. I didn’t feel comfortable with taking over someone’s work, and she brings a lot to the table as a writer and researcher which I thought was invaluable to the film.

PI: When do you hope to have it completed?

TM: By this time next year we will have a rough final cut. We will secure our principal photography this fall after this initial fundraising campaign.

PI: What can I (or others in the community) do to help with “Untitled Black Lesbian Elder Project?”

TM: Check out the UBLEP’s fundraising campaign on IndieGogo at and support us by donating or spread the word!

PI:  Where can I pick up “black./womyn?”

TM: You can purchase the film through the website at or catch me at a local screening. I always have copies on me that are available for purchase.

PI: What other projects do you have planned?

TM: Aside from UBLEP I have a short film about HIV/AIDS with two lead characters that are an older Gay Man & Young Black Lesbian called The Answer/Bumming Cigarettes I also have a multi-media experimental project I’m working on that focuses on the Black American experience, patriotism and the policing of Black bodies called Be Alarmed: The Black Americana Epic.

PI:  Hypothetically speaking in the year 20_ _ Ms.Tiona McClodden will receive an Academy Award for Best Documentary (Feature); complete the scenario by telling us more about that award winning project.

TM: If I were to pick one- It would actually be for a feature narrative I’ve been writing for the past few years about an elderly woman and hospice care.