A young black lesbian filmmaker probes into the life of The Watermelon Woman, a 1930s black actress who played 'mammy' archetypes.


Cheryl Dunye


Cheryl Dunye, Cheryl Dunye (written by: film recreations, "Plantation Memories" and "Souls of Deceit") | 1 more credit »
2 wins. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
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 (as Cheryl Clark)
Irene Dunye Irene Dunye ... Irene Dunye
Brian Freeman Brian Freeman ... Lee Edwards
Ira Jeffries Ira Jeffries ... Shirley Hamilton
Alexandra Juhasz Alexandra Juhasz ... Martha Page
Camille Paglia Camille Paglia ... Camille Page
Sarah Schulman ... CLIT Archivist
V.S. Brodie ... Karaoke Singer
Shelley Olivier Shelley Olivier ... Annie Heath
David Rakoff David Rakoff ... Librarian
Toshi Reagon Toshi Reagon ... Street Musician


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


Comedy | Drama | Romance


Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


According to writer/director Cheryl Dunye, much about the character she plays in the film is autobiographical, but the historical references to the Watermelon Woman are fictional: "The Watermelon Woman came from the real lack of any information about the lesbian and film history of African-American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 »


Shirley Hamilton: Watermelon Woman? Oh, you mean Fae. Fae Richards.
Cheryl: I thought her name was the Watermelon Woman?
Shirley Hamilton: Watermelon Woman? I don't know where you got that mess from. Probably from when she was makin' those movies. But, her name was Fae Richards.
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 »


References Alien (1979) See more »


Silent Treatment
by The Roots
Published by Grand Negaz Music, BMI/Scottkatt Music Co., ASCAP/BMG
Courtesy of Geffen Records
by special arrangement with MCA
See more »

User Reviews

5 February 2021 | by donnellyk-69798See all my reviews

Really great movie loved the documentary style seaming with the actual film fun characters great transitions inbetween shots and enjoyed how random some of the cuts or scene transitions are

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Release Date:

5 March 1997 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Watermelon Woman See more »

Filming Locations:

Pennsylvania, USA See more »


Box Office


$300,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$774, 13 November 2016

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

Production Co:

Dancing Girl See more »
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Technical Specs



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