The Watermelon Woman (1997)
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Lesbian filmmaker Cheryl Dunye wrote, directed and starred in this comic chronicle of a young filmmaker's obsession with an obscure actress from the '40s. Cheryl really wants to make a movie, but cannot find a suitable subject. While looking for inspiration, she works in a video store and it is in one of the many old off beat films she views that she finds the Watermelon Woman, an African American bit player whom Cheryl suspects was the lover of a white female director. Thus begins Cheryl's quest for the truth, a search only interrupted with her own love affair with a white woman, a romance that causes some controversy amongst her coworkers. … More
as Fae Richards/The Wat...
as Mrs. Dunye
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Critic Reviews for The Watermelon Woman
The narrative, abot a black lesbian director, is elliptical and circular, borrowing its format from Jim McBride's seminal David Holtzman's Diary, at the end of which, the viewers realize they have been watching a fake documentary.
Audience Reviews for The Watermelon Woman
Even though "The Watermelon Woman" is quite unpolished, writer-director Cheryl Dunye still manages to create a realistic fictional history in it to explore themes of race and sexuality while paralleling that with a fictional present where she plays Cheryl who works at a video store with her pal Tamara(Valarie Walker) and as videographers. Tamara tries to set her up on a blind date at a karaoke bar but it goes disastrously wrong.(Surprisingly, even worse than the usual karaoke nightmare.) Unexpectedly, Cheryl finds herself attracted to Diana(Guinevere Turner) who is new to Philadelphia.
Cheryl also has dreams of becoming a filmmaker and has decided to focus on The Watermelon Woman(Lisa Marie Bronson), nee Fae Richards, who was featured in Hollywood films as a stereotypical black maid and more three dimensional roles in race films. What Dunye does well is give a tantalizing glimpse at a lost world while debating whether or not actors like Fae were positive or negative role models. Adding versimilitude to the proceedings are interviews with Dunye's mother and Camille Paglia, about whom the reality of is debatable. For example, what does a watermelon having the same colors as the Italian flag have to do with anything?
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