Dir Cheryl Dunye / USA 1996 / 83min
With Cheryl Dunye, Guinevre Turner, Valarie Walker, Lisa Marie Bronson, Camille Paglia, Sarah Schulman
Restoration & Remaster Prod. Marc Smolowitz
UK premiere (restoration)
The Watermelon Woman takes you on journey for identity, community, love and acceptance as we get swept up in Cheryl's (Cheryl Dunye) quest to discover the identity and importance of the eponymous title character, a black actress from the 1930s whose legacy is only briefly glimpsed on screen and relegated to obscurity. Along the way she falls into a new love affair (Guinivere Turner), grapples with archival dead ends, and maybe even finds what she's looking for. But not without a final twist.
The urgency and naturalistic brilliance of this DIY film is as fresh today as it was twenty years ago and, just as the film queries the lack of African American women's (and especially lesbian) histories, this essential new restoration made possible by the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project will make sure this classic is preserved for generations to come. The film itself stands as an evocative reminder of the queer community's need for creating its own archives in the wake of a largely-invisible or erased history.