How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It) (2005)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It) Videos

How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It) Photos

Movie Info

Melvin Van Peebles created a new style of African-American filmmaking in 1971, when on a shoestring budget he made Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, a violent action picture about a sex-show stud on the run from the police that below the surface served as a call for revolution in the black community. But Sweet Sweetback was hardly Van Peebles' first or only bold achievement in the arts. After brief careers piloting cable cars in San Francisco and flying fighter planes in the Korean War, Van Peebles moved to Paris, where he wrote five novels, became a regular contributor to an anarchist journal, and directed his first feature film, The Story of a Three-Day Pass. On the strength of its critical acclaim, Van Peebles returned to America and made his first (and only) major studio film, Watermelon Man, which helped him gather the money and connections it took to make Sweet Sweetback. Alongside these cinematic triumphs, Van Peebles launched a recording career in the late '60s, making literate but streetwise albums that paved the way for rap and hip-hop, and staged a series of hit Broadway plays including +Don't Play Us Cheap and +Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death. In the 1980s, Van Peebles switched careers and became a successful Wall Street options trader, and watched his son Mario Van Peebles become a star. (Mario would also go on to make a film about his dad's adventures making Sweet Sweetback, entitled Baadasssss!) How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It) is a documentary made with Van Peebles' participation that looks back at his multi-faceted career and the brilliant, uncompromising man behind it all. The film includes interviews with a number of Van Peebles' colleagues and admirers, including Spike Lee, Gil Scott-Heron, Gordon Parks, and Elvis Mitchell.
Documentary , Special Interest , Television
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:

Watch it now


Dick Hehmeyer
as Newsreel Narrator
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It)

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (6)

[Van Peebles] could surely survive a more critical and complete look at his extraordinary life and times.

Full Review… | November 27, 2006
AV Club
Top Critic

... enlightening doc ...

January 20, 2006
New York Post
Top Critic

Angio's film is an excellent introduction, but it won't be long before you realize that his subject is too complex to be contained in a single admiring tribute.

Full Review… | January 20, 2006
New York Daily News
Top Critic

This documentary about the pioneering black filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles is nearly as mischevious and fascinating as its subject.

January 19, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Melvin Van Peebles gets the idolatrous treatment in this documentary by first-time director Joe Angio.

Full Review… | January 19, 2006
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic

Frisky, enthralling and inspiring.

January 19, 2006
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It)

Although many know him primarily through his work on film(notably the landmark "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song"), what the entertaining and illuminating documentary "How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company(And Enjoy It)"(perhaps the best title ever for a documentary) sets out to prove in fine style is that there is much more to Melvin Van Peebles than just that. As he is the epitome of the modern renaissance man, Van Peebles has also been a navigator for the air force, drove a trolley in San Francisco, a writer, a musician(although as one person puts it, he sings like a 'frog on crack'), a television commentator and, oh why not, a Wall Street trader. He came to filmmaking while living in France where as a writer he was able to get a part-time filmmaking license.(Which is so cool by the way.) And that led to Hollywood, followed by his greatest success with 'Sweetback' that as the documentary puts it, made it hip to be a revolutionary, unlike the movie's many imitators which simply did not get it. Okay, there are some places where this documentary does not go very deep, but probably for the best, considering it would involve Van Peebles' personal life. And I would like to salute his stamina for his prolific love life which in reality probably did lead to more than its share of heartbreak. And sadly there is no mention of his son Mario's film "Baadasssss!" about his father's film, nor about Mario's very small and controversial part in said film.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer


A fascinating film, about a fascinating man. Glosses over some of the defects of character explored in "Badasss", but illuminates some of the more fascinating aspects of a man who was truly a jack of all trades. Air force pilot, writer, musician, cabaret performer, theater and film director, Wall Street Stock trader, director of the highest grossing independent film of its time, perhaps Godfather of hip-hop, American spoken word, and regretfully Blaxploitation cinema, and Knight of the French Legion (achievements which don't come in the chronological order, you would expect). Most people know him for "Sweet Sweetbacks Badasss Song", but few know of his two films in French(which he speaks fluently, along with Dutch, and sings horribly, but amiably in), or his Broadway shows and musical comedies. A man for whom revolution, was every bit a creative as much as political maxim, and one who knew better than to take himself too seriously in the meantime. There are four stages in your life he tells his son, "Melvin who?, Melvin, Get me Melvin, and Melvin who?". Perhaps someone less willingly provacative, would have had an easier career, but a less interesting one too. Melvin Van Peebles wakes up to the kinds of limitations Lars Von Trier and company, impose on themselves, for artistic "purity", and embodies DIY aesthetic, more than the most vocal of punk bands professing the creed. At the same time, during an academic discussion of one of his films at a university panel of Black film-makers, when someone in the audience commented that "Sweetback", was too dark and shadowy, he replied that there were no mistakes in his film, each decision was an artistic choice, when the man in the audience responded "well...its looks fucked up", Melvin left the stage, walked to into the audience, to the mans chair, and punched him in the face. Needless to say he was not invited to too many more discussions. Visually the only constant in the film, is a wax replica of Van Peebles being constructed, as the story of his life, is laid out in interviews and archival footage. A brighter, much funnier, film than you would imagine. Critic, Elvis Mitchell says it best, at one point in the movie, "He was the P.T. Barnum of African American film....and I mean that in a good way".

Joseph Sylvers
Joseph Sylvers

How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It) Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

Discussion Forum

Discuss How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It) on our Movie forum!

News & Features