Kennedy Dunning, an Atlanta-based filmmaker and screenwriter, uses film to tell stories. Her work aims to improve African American women’s public image and change individuals’ own perceptions of women of color in society.
Dunning discovered her passion for filmmaking at a young age. She was always obsessed with storytelling as a child, performing skits in front of her family and making short trailers using the iMovie app. However, it was her high school experience that sparked her interest in film. She realized how the negative stereotypes of African Americans were perpetuated in the minds of the white students at her predominantly white high school. Through film, she hoped to change people’s perceptions of African American women by conveying a message that genuinely reflects the empowerment and independence that black women embody.
“I started realizing how visual humans are, like we learn from images,” said Dunning. “I wanted to take that responsibility in creating complex and accurate stories that truly reflect specifically the black female experience. I wanted to change the world to make it a better place for black women.”
Malcolm X once said: “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” This quote inspired her most recent film, How Hair You. She began making this film two years ago at the peak of the pandemic, as a sophomore at Spelman University.
“I was on social media and I was noticing how a lot of women, black and white, were equating letting themselves go to letting their body hair grow,” said Dunning. “I didn’t think that was letting yourself go because it is a thing that is natural that grows out of your body.
“So, I called my feminist study teacher, and the film was kind of born from there,” Dunning continued. “Just growing up with lighter skin and darker hair I have always been interested in body hair.”
In addition to her recent recognition in August at the Bronze Lens Festival for How Hair You, she has received various scholarships and awards for her work.
“I got a Chevrolet scholarship for an essay describing why filmmaking is important to me and a year ago I won the pitch competition by Macro and Beats by Dre with my passion project called The Hallway,” said Dunning. “The film I am probably most proud of is Woody Spike Stuck in the Spring. It was the first student film ever selected for the black women film network short film festival.”
She continues working on the script for The Hallway, a story dedicated to black girls using their voices to speak about issues that are important to them. Her other films include I’m here, Hands Down, The Suburban Princess, Peridot, etc. Dunning is also working on a pilot for a new TV show.
“The world tries to make black women feel so small and I don’t want black women to ever be afraid to be themselves, express themselves and achieve whatever they want,” said Dunning.
Her goals for the future include becoming a director, screenwriter and film critic. Her internship with Macro has provided her with numerous networking opportunities, as well as connections with Netflix and HBO. She intends to continue working at Macro as an assistant to one of the executives after graduation, as well as at Netflix or HBO in the future.
“You must have tough skin to be in the film industry, listen to your mentors and take advice on what they did to make it to where they are but shape it into what’s best for your life,” said Dunning.
To stay updated on new film releases and to view some of her films visit her website at KennedyDunning.squarespace.com