Chameleon Street

Director: Wendell B. Harris
Screenwriters: Wendell B. Harris

Institute History


Filmmaker/actor Wendell B. Harris Jr. heard about the exploits of William Douglas Street and knew he had to make a film about him. Street is a bright, articulate black man trapped in a menial job installing burglar alarms. Driven by his desire for more money and influence and eager to satisfy his shopping-obsessed wife, Gabrielle (Angela Leslie), Street decides to work his way up the middle-class white ladder by impersonating professionals. As a journalist, he interviews celebrities; as a doctor, he performs surgery; as a foreign-exchange student, he speaks French; as a lawyer, he negotiates with corporate clients. Eventually he is caught and goes to prison. When asked why he behaves as he does, Street's explanation is simple: "I give people what they want."

As well as directing and writing the film, Harris portrays Street, which makes the parallels between the two even sharper. Like Street, Harris is a black man trying to find his niche in a white man's world. He has more in mind than entertaining us with Street's adventures. Street's story also becomes social commentary on the frustrations inherent in the black experience in America.

Although Chameleon Street won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1990 Sundance/United States Film Festival, it never received wide distribution, an added incentive for adding it to the Sundance Collection. Harris recently restored the film and mastered it on HD Cam, and this screening offers a rare opportunity to see it again.

— Barbara Bannon

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]