Stranger Inside

Director: Cheryl Dunye
Screenwriters: Catherine Crouch, Cheryl Dunye

Institute History

  • 2001 Sundance Film Festival


Who in their right mind wants a life sentence in prison? For Treasure Lee, it is a dream come true. Director Cheryl Dunye reinvigorates the prison movie genre with her exceedingly intelligent and long-awaited second feature,Stranger Inside. As she excavates the rich terrain of the emotions and aspirations of incarcerated women, Dunye introduces us to a protagonist we have never seen before.

Separated at birth from her imprisoned mother, Treasure Lee has been in and out of jail for as long as she can remember. Her 21st birthday present is a transfer from the department of correction's juvenile facility to the women's state prison. Her friends are aghast at the cruelty of this legal mandate, but Treasure has her eyes on her own prize. All her young life, she has been told that her mother, Margaret "Brownie" Lee, is dead. But when one of her best Gang Girl friends rolls into State and tells her about a badass lifer nicknamed Brownie, Treasure becomes consumed with new hope for a reunion with her mom. For Treasure, a transfer to State might just be her way back home.

Impressively researched and on the mark, Stranger Inside is filled with details of prison life-like therapy sessions with real inmates-and believable characters-like Liesha, the hip-hop Geisha, born-again embezzler Doodle, and Xanex zombie Patrice-all brought to life by a superb cast. Enriched with Dunye's trademark sense of humor and singular vision, Stranger Inside reveals one black woman's unconscious struggle to confront the secrets and lies that have shaped and controlled her life.

— Shari Frilot

Screening Details

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