Directed by Cheryl Dunye • 1996 • United States
Starring Cheryl Dunye, Guinevere Turner, Valarie Walker
The wry, incisive debut feature by Cheryl Dunye gave cinema something bracingly new and groundbreaking: a vibrant representation of Black lesbian identity by a Black lesbian filmmaker. Dunye stars as Cheryl, a video-store clerk and aspiring director whose interest in forgotten Black actresses leads her to investigate an obscure 1930s performer known as the Watermelon Woman, whose story proves to have surprising resonances with Cheryl’s own life as she navigates a new relationship with a white girlfriend (Guinevere Turner). Balancing breezy romantic comedy with a serious inquiry into the history of Black and queer women in Hollywood, THE WATERMELON WOMAN slyly rewrites long-standing constructions of race and sexuality on-screen, introducing an important voice in American cinema.