To commemorate Black History Month, on February 1, the CofC Film Club hosted a screening of the 1996 film The Watermelon Woman written by, directed, edited by, and starring Cheryl Dunye. The Watermelon Woman was the first feature-length film directed by a black lesbian woman and is an important piece of film history. The film follows Cheryl, a video store clerk who becomes infatuated with a black actress from the 1930s and 40s, who was typecasted as a “mammy.” This infatuation leads Cheryl to film a documentary attempting to discover as much as possible about this actress credited only as “The Watermelon Woman.” The film blurs the line between fiction and reality, incorporating scenes shot both on tape and on film to visually represent the documentary efforts and the narrative moments, respectively. In this groundbreaking film, Dunye indicts the film industry’s exploitation of black artists and its revisionist attempts to force individuals into discriminatory boxes.
The thoroughly unique film can be streamed on Kanopy.
Article by Film Club officer Keller Hollingsworth