The Watermelon Woman (1996) with Hardcover Hotties Book Club
Director: Cheryl Dunye Run Time: 90 min. Rating: NR Release Year: 1996
Starring: Cheryl Clarke, Cheryl Dunye, Guinevere Turner, Lisa Marie Bronson, Valarie Walker
Country: United States
In partnership with Hardcover Hotties Book Club, the Film Center presents Cheryl Dunye’s groundbreaking film. Before the screening, join us for a happy hour in The Festival Lounge from 5PM – 6PM.
Hardcover Hotties Book Club is a collective of readers & learners, who seek to explore a diverse array of cultural perspectives through structured readings and discussion, with the hope of cultivating a community of curious, intentional, and caring members of society.
About the film:
Cheryl Dunye made cinematic history with The Watermelon Woman (1996), the first American feature to be directed by a black lesbian as well as an incisive, humorous critique of classic Hollywood’s racist stereotypes. Dunye plays an eponymous video store employee and burgeoning filmmaker who sets out to make a documentary on the Watermelon Woman (Lisa Marie Bronson), an actress who specialized in “mammy” roles for Hollywood productions of the 30s and 40s.
As Cheryl uncovers the Watermelon Woman’s identity she not only learns about a secret behind-the-scenes interracial romance but also begins one of her own with Diana (Guinevere Turner), a white woman who arouses the ire of Cheryl’s best friend Tamara (Valerie Walker).
A landmark of the New Queer Cinema, The Watermelon Woman (1996) testifies to the power of excavating legacies of oppression and in the process creates a progressive legacy of its own. In 2021, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
About the filmmaker:
Cheryl Dunye is a Liberian-American film director, producer, screenwriter, editor and actress. She broke barriers as the first out black lesbian to ever direct a feature film with her 1996 film The Watermelon Woman. Dunye’s work often concerns themes of race, sexuality, and gender. She has spent the past three decades excavating and creating a Black queer history that fuses narrative and documentary through words, images, and memory.
Among her feature film projects, Stranger Inside (2001) earned her a nomination for Best Director at the 2002 Film Independent Spirit Awards, and she premiered the queer comedy Mommy Is Coming (2012) at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival. She has also directed some of the highest rated episodes of television series such as Lovecraft Country, Queen Sugar, Claws, Dear White People, and All Rise. Dunye runs the production company Jingletown Films based in Oakland California.See our upcoming films