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“An investigation into film history that doubles as a romantic comedy, The Watermelon Woman is a dazzlingly inventive landmark of the New Queer Cinema and the first US feature directed by an ’out’ Black lesbian.”
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.
“Dunye gives us permission to define ourselves in ways that both claim our ancestors and mark the space between us and them – a space for different yet entangled freedoms. How do we tell stories that cannot but must be told? The Watermelon Woman offers another way to search for “our mother’s gardens” (as author Alice Walker puts it), one in which imagination is a form of birth and repair.”— Chrystel Oloukoï for the British Film Institute
Sun April 17, 2022, 2:00 PM, Muenzinger Auditorium
United States of America, 1996, in English, 85 min
Director: Cheryl Dunye, Writer: Cheryl Dunye, Cast: Cheryl Dunye, Guinevere Turner, Camille Paglia, Valarie Walker, Lisa Marie Bronson