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The Watermelon Woman (1996)

Unrated | | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 5 March 1997 (USA)
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2:43 | Clip
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... See full summary »

Director:

Cheryl Dunye

Writer:

Cheryl Dunye
2 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Cheryl Dunye ... Cheryl
Guinevere Turner ... Diana
Valarie Walker Valarie Walker ... Tamara
Lisa Marie Bronson Lisa Marie Bronson ... Fae 'The Watermelon Woman' Richards
Cheryl Clarke Cheryl Clarke ... June Walker
Irene Dunye Irene Dunye ... Herself
Brian Freeman Brian Freeman ... Lee Edwards
Camille Paglia Camille Paglia ... Herself
Sarah Schulman Sarah Schulman ... CLIT Archivist
V.S. Brodie V.S. Brodie ... Karaoke Singer
Shelley Olivier Shelley Olivier ... Annie Heath
Toshi Reagon Toshi Reagon ... Street Magician
Emmy Collins ... Video Browser
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Mickey Goldhaber Mickey Goldhaber ... Featured
K. Brent Hill K. Brent Hill ... J.J. Liberty
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Storyline

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 <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Unrated

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

5 March 1997 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Arbuziarka See more »

Filming Locations:

Pennsylvania, USA See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$774, 13 November 2016

Gross USA:

$1,989

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$1,989
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Dancing Girl See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Color
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The scene from the faux-archival 1930s film, "Plantation Memories", was directed by Douglas McKeown and co-written by McKeown and Cheryl Dunye See more »

Quotes

Cheryl: Hey! Hey, you're Martin Pumphrey!
Street Magician: No ma'am, I'm a magician.
See more »

Crazy Credits

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 »

Alternate Versions

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 »

Connections

References Murder in Harlem (1935) See more »

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User Reviews

As Timely Today As When First Released
14 February 2017 | by johnenycSee all my reviews

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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