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Cholodenko, Lisa (b. 1964)  
 
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Acclaimed lesbian filmmaker Lisa Cholodenko has so far written and directed three feature films, whose "narrative motor," as Dennis Lim noted in the New York Times, is "sexual attraction."

As Lim observed, "[Cholodenko's] sex scenes can be steamy, but they are far from gratuitous, since in her movies nothing jolts characters and plots into action quite like an erotic spark."

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For example, in High Art (1998), Cholodenko's first feature-length film, an ambitious associate editor of a photography magazine leaves her boyfriend and becomes involved with a drug-addicted, older lesbian photographer whom she coaxes out of retirement. In Laurel Canyon (2002), an uptight research scientist suddenly finds herself in the middle of a potential threesome involving her fiancé's record-producer mother and the mother's much younger rock musician boyfriend. And in Cholodenko's most recent film, The Kids Are All Right (2010), one of the women in a long-term lesbian relationship is drawn into an affair with the previously anonymous sperm donor who fathered the couple's two children.

As Cholodenko herself explained in an interview, "With sex it's really a line crossing. It's a very clear demarcation of passing a barrier." She went on to add, "When people make that choice to cross boundaries outside of relationships, which I guess is what I've done for a lot of these characters, it's about a yearning for something to change. I think it's an expression of 'Let me push this into crisis.'"

Lisa Cholodenko was born on June 5, 1964 in Los Angeles, California, into a "very talkative and inquisitive and pretty liberal Jewish family."

In an interview for National Public Radio, Cholodenko explained that she was "kind of outed" by her mother when she was 17 years old. As Cholodenko reflected, "I was in high school, and there weren't other people who were gay that I knew, and so I felt different and confused about that. But I had a great love affair in high school, and let myself have that love affair and tried to keep it to myself. But . . . I was eventually kind of outed by my mother, who took me aside one day and said, 'Well, it's obvious to me that you're in love with this person, and you're struggling to kind of sort it out. So why don't you go get some therapy and feel better about it because I don't want you to feel bad.'"

After graduating from high school, Cholodenko enrolled at San Francisco State University, where she had an integrated major that included ethnic studies, women's studies, and anthropology.

While still a student, Cholodenko became a teaching assistant to the political activist and academic Angela Davis who was then a Professor of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. Davis had been associated with both the Communist and the Black Panthers political parties and was famously tried and acquitted for her suspected involvement with the 1970 abduction and murder of Judge Harold Haley in Marin County, California.

Cholodenko travelled to Nepal and India after graduating from college, before finally settling down in Jerusalem with her then girlfriend who was studying to become a rabbi. Cholodenko stayed abroad for a year and a half and then returned to Los Angeles.

By then, Cholodenko had determined that she wanted a career in film. Her introduction to the film industry was as an apprentice editor on John Singleton's Boyz n the Hood (1991). She has since called this a "seminal experience," given that Singleton was only 24 years old at the time, fresh out of film school, and directing his first studio-financed feature film that he had also written, according to Cholodenko, from a "heartfelt and . . . singular perspective."

Cholodenko went on to become an assistant editor on Brett Leonard's science fiction horror film The Lawnmower Man (1992) and Beeban Kidron's romantic comedy Used People (1992).

Colleagues encouraged her to apply to film school. She enrolled in the graduate Film Program at Columbia University School of the Arts in New York City, where she earned a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in screenwriting and directing. While in film school she was mentored by Milos Forman, the award-winning director of such films as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and Amadeus (1984).

Cholodenko's early efforts include the short films Souvenir (1994) and Dinner Party (1997), which won the Audience Award in the Best Girl's Short category at the 1997 Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.

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Lisa Cholodenko ( YouTube video still).
  
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