Cheryl is young, Black, and lesbian, working in Philadelphia with her best friend Tamara and consumed by a film project: to make a video about her search for a Black actress from Philly who...
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Max is a trendy, pretty, young lesbian, who is having trouble finding love. A friend sets her up with Ely, whom Max likes, but Ely is frumpy, homely, and older. Nor do they have much in ... See full summary »
T. Wendy McMillan
Set ten years after the most peaceful revolution in United States history, it presents a dystopia in which the issues of many groups - minorities, liberals, gay rights organizations, feminists - are dealt with by the government.
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Cheryl is young, Black, and lesbian, working in Philadelphia with her best friend Tamara and consumed by a film project: to make a video about her search for a Black actress from Philly who appeared in films in the 30s and was known as the Watermelon Woman. Following various leads, Cheryl discovers the Watermelon Woman's stage name and real name and surmises that the actress had a long affair with Martha Page, a White woman and one of Hollywood's few female directors. As she's discovering these things, Cheryl becomes involved with Diana, who's also White. The affair strains Cheryl's friendship with Tamara. More discoveries bring Cheryl (and us, her audience) to new realizations.Written by
The film, which seems to be a documentary about Cheryl's search for the obscure actress who inspired her, ends with these printed words: "Sometimes you have to create your own history. The Watermelon Woman is fiction. Cheryl Dunye, 1996" See more »
In 2016, director Cheryl Dunye's landmark Black Queer Film THE WATERMELON WOMAN was re-released in select theaters and festivals with a pristine 2K HD restoration overseen by the production company 13th Gen, in partnership with Modern Videofilm. The restoration and re-release was sponsored by First Run Features, the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project, and the Toronto International Film Festival. This theatrical tour will be followed by a DVD re-release in early 2017. See more »
A cause for celebration, this 20th Anniversary DVD release. The Watermelon Woman was a revelation back in 1996 and it is -- shame on us -- perhaps even more to-the-point today.
Seated by myself at the Film Forum here in NYC, 1996, a gay non-Black guy, I was expecting a variation on the Melvin Van Peebles satire from the early seventies, The Watermelon Man. But a mere five minutes into The Watermelon Woman, I knew I was in the presence of something special, indeed. Here was a tsunami of vivid, fresh air.
Cheryl Dunye -- writer, director, star -- had created something utterly new. Here she was, placing a Black Lesbian at the center, unapologetic about her same-sex longing and needs, about her rich magnetic Blackness, her fierce yet tender femaleness. For me, used to seeing Lesbians or gay men like myself held up for mockery or derision or contempt, it was a revelation to see Lesbians portrayed as just part of the human tapestry, regular people making it through the day, paying bills, falling in and out of lust and love.
For that alone, The Watermelon Woman deserves high praise. But it is about so much more. For Ms. Dunye uses her Blackness to probe an America which has never come to terms with its deep racist history. Ms. Dunye confronts it with wit and candor. Her character is researching a beautiful Black actress from the 1930s, who never received a credit in her films. It's like she never existed, a mere celluloid presence, nothing more.
As she probes deeper into the actress's past, Ms. Dunye begins peeling away her own reality. As both a Lesbian and a Black woman, in an America which marginalizes Lesbians, Blacks, women. She is forced to question assumptions about what it means to be a Lesbian and both a woman and a woman of color.
And here is where The Watermelon Woman becomes as timely as it was back in 1996. For in confronting her own marginalization, Ms. Dunye makes crystal clear why today's Black Lives Matter is so important to today's America. Like any work of art -- and make no mistake, The Watermelon Woman is a work of art, indeed -- meanings change over time. And though Black Lives Matter hadn't yet become a rallying cry, its genesis is inherent in The Watermelon Woman.
Cheryl Dunye, you and The Watermelon Woman are a oner!
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