FilmBrew EP5 (The Watermelon Woman 1996)

Censorship and Representation of Black History in Film



Welcome to our second analysis in celebration of Black History Month! Today we take a look into Cheryl Dunye and her brilliant historical fiction film: The Watermelon Woman (1996). This low budget Indie film from the 90s is a staple of black, queer cinema. According to writer/director Cheryl Dunye, the film is autobiographical, as it follows a young, black, lesbian woman, appropriately named Cheryl. Working as a video store clerk  in Philadelphia, Cheryl becomes consumed by a video film project, which documents her research on a black actress appearing in films from the 1930s, known as The Watermelon Woman. Cheryl’s research leads her to new discoveries about the actress and even new discoveries about herself and her relationships.

“The Watermelon Woman came from the lack of any information about the lesbian and film history of African-American women. Since it wasn’t happening, I invented it.”

-Cheryl Dunye