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The Flavor of Filmmaking: Black Southern Filmmakers

From Theta Chapter of Gamma Xi Phi – Theta Chapter of Gamma Xi Phi, the fraternity for artists, presents a virtual panel discussion featuring three North Carolina-based filmmakers. The event highlights panelists Leslie Cunningham, Rukiya Shanteel, and Kimberly Knight, who discussed both the art and the craft of their work. The artists’ projects involved a … Continue reading The Flavor of Filmmaking: Black Southern Filmmakers

CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY: Watch JIG SHOW | Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana

JIG SHOW | Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana – A documentary film by Leslie Cunningham Brown skin showgirls, whites-only audiences, and the brave African American showman who left an extraordinary entertainment legacy despite the insurmountable odds against him and his dreams.  Step right up, folks! The last remaining great troupers are finally telling their stories about … Continue reading CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY: Watch JIG SHOW | Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana

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JIG SHOW | Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana

A documentary film series by Leslie Cunningham 

Logline: The glorious legend of Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana, a so-called Jig Show that endures racism, segregation and immigration laws to become popular in the 1940s through the 1960s. Read more at 

Finding Aumont Whitaker

A short doc film by Leslie Cunningham. (2018, RT 11:42 min)

Logline: When Dina learns her real father passed away, she sets out on a cross country journey to meet three sisters she never met. Watch now.

M.I., A Different Kind of Girl 

A documentary film by Leslie Cunningham. (2012, RT 52 min)

Logline: A male impersonator struggles to find acceptance from her families and the male-dominated drag community. Visit Watch now

Panel 3


Meet Leslie

Leslie Cunningham 1

Leslie Cunningham is an artist, writer, documentary filmmaker, and owner of TRIBES Entertainment, a boutique digital media company based in Durham, North Carolina known creating daring and entertaining narratives through a variety of digital platforms.

A raconteur with a journalistic background, Leslie created TRIBES Magazine in 2004 as artists across the Triangle area of North Carolina were calling out for a voice.  Her popular show TRIBES TV covered North Carolina arts and community events and aired on public television stations, including Durham Community Media and The People’s Channel in Chapel Hill, NC. A public broadcasting hit, TRIBES TV spread Leslie’s reputation as a local media institution to citizens around the Triangle. 

Leslie is a graduate of the documentary arts program at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University in Durham, NC. Her collection of engaging documentary film have screened on public television, online and at film festivals in the U.S. and internationally.

Leslie’s first feature film, M.I., A Different Kind of Girl, in 2012. M.I. was selected for The North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Atlanta’s Out On FilmGender Reel Film Festival in 2012, and ended its festival tour in 2016 at Massimadi, the LGBT Film Festival of Africa and its Diasporas.  

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Leslie’s latest film, JIG SHOW | Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana, is a three-part educational documentary about her grandfather’s popular traveling revue that significantly impacted Black entertainment in the mid-20th century. JIG SHOW, was selected for sponsorship and funding from The Southern Documentary Fund, ITVS’ Diversity Development Fund, Cucalorus’ Work in Progress Program, The Sundance New Frontier Lab, and Filmed in NC. The film is part of a larger multimedia documentary project called The Harlem in Havana Project in which aims to revive the show’s rich burlesque history.

Leslie is a member of the Gamma Xi Phi fraternity for artists and creators committed to service to the arts and brotherhood among all artists; Film Fatales, a non-profit which advocates for parity in the entertainment industry and supports women directors; Brown Girls Doc Mafia, an initiative advocating for women and non-binary people of color working in the documentary film industry; and, Soka Gakkai International, Buddhists in action for peace. 

Read Leslie’s Artist Statement

Leslie in the press

Contact Leslie

Panel 4


“Yo Amo Cuba” Series

In 2018, Leslie traveled to Havana, Cuba and captured photographs in the vibrant city. In her art photography series, “Yo Amo Cuba”, Leslie experiments with the pop art technique as a way to call attention to her subjects. The art photography series includes the following:

AVAILABLE IN PRINT “Havana Man” Photography Art by Leslie Cunningham – As I walked the streets of downtown Havana, I came across a wonderful man sitting alone playing sweet old melodies from his flute. This photograph captures the moment I fell in love…with the city and with this wise Havana man.

Cristo de La Habana Photography Art by Leslie Cunningham  – On a hilltop, overlooking the bay, sits “The Christ of Havana, Cristo de La Habana, a large sculpture representing Jesus Christ. In this piece, I honor the breathtaking work created in 1953 by Cuban sculptor Jilma Madera, which symbolizes the country’s deep religious culture of Christianity.

“A Cuban Classic” Photography Art by Leslie Cunningham – I’ve always loved classic cars and car shows, so my visit to Cuba was a dream come true! I literally stepped into a time capsule! Every street was lined with cars from the 1940s and 1950s -Chevrolets, Fords, Studebakers, you name it. This photograph pays homage to my love for these classic cars, and to Cuba for keeping them beautiful and running!

“El Musico” Photography Art by Leslie Cunningham – While visiting Havana, my family and I had a great opportunity to go to the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. After a long day of sightseeing, we got a chance to unwind by the bay and grab a cocktail in the hotel lounge. This vibrant photograph captures the trio of musicians who serenaded us with popular Cuban songs. I event got a chance to sit in and play the maracas!

“Liberta de Abastecimento” Photography Art by Leslie Cunningham – Milk…eggs…bread…these are all items in the U.S. we have come to consume often and can easily grab at the corner store. But if you live Cuba, you most likely live within food distribution system that establishes the amounts of subsidized rations each person is allowed to receive.  I took this photograph of a young man walking down the street with his rations.