About Leslie

A raconteur with a journalistic background, Leslie Cunningham is an artist and filmmaker originally from Los Angeles, CA. Feeding her hunger for producing daring and entertaining narratives that represent a diversity of subjects and communities, Leslie created TRIBES Magazine, the award-winning urban entertainment publication which developed a reputation of love and respect among urban artists, poets, music journalists, and indie music fans around the globe.

A graduate of the Center or Documentary Studies at Duke University with a Certificate in the Documentary Arts, Leslie’s collection of engaging documentary film and videos have screened on public television, online and at film festivals in the U.S. and internationally. In her early years of filmmaking, Leslie produced a number of popular shows for the local public television station The People’s Channel, in Chapel Hill, NC. Her show, TRIBES TV, covered arts and community events in the Triangle area of North Carolina, including- the first annual Triangle Black Pride Festival, Stand Up Speak Out– combating domestic violence with spoken word- in 2008, and Big Freedia-The Queen of Bounce show, Live in Durham in 2013. TRIBES TV was a public broadcasting hit and spread Leslie’s reputation as a local media institution to citizens around the Triangle.

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The early years of filmmaking were a learning process from which Leslie’s first feature-length documentary film, M.I., A Different Kind of Girl, was born. The film debuted at the Hayti Heritage Film Festival in March 2012, followed by a three-city Pride Festival tour through Philadelphia, St. Louis, and ending in Raleigh at the Triangle Black Pride Festival. M.I. also was chosen for The North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and Atlanta’s Out On Film in 2012,Gender Reel Film Festival (2014) and Massimadi, the LGBT Film Festival of Africa and its Diasporas in 2016. The film has paved the way for more projects that would educate, entertain and feature provocative subjects and subject matter.

Seeing her first feature film through from start to finish tore away the last of the walls obscuring Leslie’s view of her mission. Now, she is making the film that has become her life’s work. JIG SHOW | Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana is a film about her family’s stage show which documents the legacy of her grandfather, Leon Claxton, one of the twentieth century’s most successful traveling show producers. Sponsored by the Southern Documentary Fund, JIG SHOW received research and development funds from ITVS’ Diversity Development Funding in 2014, was selected for the Cucalorus Filmmaker WIP Residency Program and participated in the Sundance Institute New Frontier Program in 2016. The film is slated for release in 2019.

Leslie currently resides in Durham NC. She is a member of Film Fatales, an inclusive community of women feature film and television directors and is committed to mentoring emerging young filmmakers. She also enjoys photography, writing and painting.

Contact Leslie at lesliecunninghampro@gmail.com.