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Film Screening: The Watermelon Woman

The Watermelon Woman is a 1996 feature film by filmmaker Cheryl Dunye about Cheryl, a young black lesbian working a day job in a video store while trying to make a film about a black actress from the 1930s known for playing the stereotypical "mammy" roles relegated to black actresses during the period. It was the first feature film directed by a black lesbian.

The film tells the story of Cheryl, a 25-year-old filmmaker (played by the director herself), whom one can reasonably assume is a pseudo-fictional Dunye. Cheryl spends many of her days alongside her best friend Tamara (Valarie Walker) in Philadelphia as a video store clerk while moonlighting as an independent filmmaker. Desiring to make a film but without a subject, she stumbles upon the story of a mysterious Black actress from the race films of the 30s and 40s (the early films made by Black filmmakers with a mostly Black cast, for Black audiences), credited only as "The Watermelon Woman." Voracious interest leads Cheryl to discover the name of the (fictional) actress — Fae Richards — and her relationship with a famed director of her time, a white woman named Martha Page.


This film screening is part of our Spring/Summer 2017 film programming schedule. Stay tuned for our monthly screenings which aim to highlight women's achievements in global cinema. All screenings are by donation; popcorn and beverages will be provided.
Programmed by Yaz Ebrahi.