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
According to writer/director Cheryl Dunye, much about the character she plays in the film is autobiographical, but the historical references to the Watermelon Woman are fictional: "The Watermelon Woman came from the real lack of any information about the lesbian and film history of African-American women. Since it wasn't happening, I invented it." See more »
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 »
This is a very lighthearted film about a black video store clerk (Cheryl Dunye) who wants to make a documentary about an early black actress, known only as The Watermelon Woman." The fact that both Cheryl (Dunye) and the actress are lesbians keeps her going. In fact, in life imitating art, Cheryl finds that The Watermelon Woman was having a lesbian relationship with a white director, and then, she begins a relationship with a white video store customer (Guinevere Turner - American Psycho, Itty Bitty Titty Committee).
The film explored black language, early black actresses, black lesbians, mammies, and watermelon. It even featured an interview with Camille Paglia discussing mammies and watermelon in the context of blacks and Italians, It's nice to see Italians spoken of in something other than the Mob.
Her BFF Tamera (Valarie Walker) is a party girl, but she draws the line at interracial relationships, and that causes a problem for Cheryl.
There are a lot of good scenes throughout the movie, and it made it worthwhile even if the acting wasn't particularly good.
The end credits will surprise you.
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