Watermelon Woman

Watermelon Woman

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Cast: Cheryl Dunye, Guinevere Turner, Valerie Walker, Lisa Marie Bronson

     
 

The first film by and about an African-American lesbian, writer-director Cheryl Dunye's fantasy is a "mockumentary," focusing on recapturing the life and times of a fictionalized 1930s Hollywood actress. Dunye plays herself as a video store employee who yearns to be a director. She decides to make a documentary about Fae Richards (Lisa Marie Bronson), a forgotten… See more details below

Overview

The first film by and about an African-American lesbian, writer-director Cheryl Dunye's fantasy is a "mockumentary," focusing on recapturing the life and times of a fictionalized 1930s Hollywood actress. Dunye plays herself as a video store employee who yearns to be a director. She decides to make a documentary about Fae Richards (Lisa Marie Bronson), a forgotten African-American actress from the 1930s. Dunye discovers the woman, who often played degrading roles as a "mammy" in Hollywood films, was the secret lover of a white director, Martha Paige. Dunye interviews feminist historian Camille Paglia (playing herself), who explains Richards' career and its importance. While researching the project, Dunye falls in love with Diana (Guinevere Turner), a white customer. But her unceasing work on the film project interferes with her relationships with Diana and also with her friend and fellow video store employee Tamara (Valarie Walker).The first film by and about an African-American lesbian, writer-director Cheryl Dunye's fantasy is a "mockumentary," focusing on recapturing the life and times of a fictionalized 1930s Hollywood actress. Dunye plays herself as a video store employee who yearns to be a director. She decides to make a documentary about Fae Richards (Lisa Marie Bronson), a forgotten African-American actress from the 1930s. Dunye discovers the woman, who often played degrading roles as a "mammy" in Hollywood films, was the secret lover of a white director, Martha Paige. Dunye interviews feminist historian Camille Paglia (playing herself), who explains Richards' career and its importance. While researching the project, Dunye falls in love with Diana (Guinevere Turner), a white customer. But her unceasing work on the film project interferes with her relationships with Diana and also with her friend and fellow video store employee Tamara (Valarie Walker). ~ Michael Betzold

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Brian J. Dillard
Although it's far more interesting as a cultural artifact than as a film, this first effort from indie director Cheryl Dunye is not without a certain threadbare charm. The acting is lousy, the production values are miniscule, and the self-conscious tone is often off-putting. But underneath all the limitations imposed by the director's inexperience and lack of funding, The Watermelon Woman tells a story that hasn't been told before. Cinema-as-self-reflection is a favorite topic of film theorists, but Dunye's film effectively dramatizes the drive to find oneself represented fully onscreen. The casting of motor-mouthed cultural gadfly Camille Paglia as herself would be a coup for any director; pondering whether Paglia thought she was being interviewed for an actual documentary or was in on the joke just adds another layer of postmodern fun. The recruitment of lesbian indie pin-up Guinevere Turner is similarly canny. The relationship angst between her character and Dunye's protagonist is arguably the worst-realized aspect of the entire script, but Turner gives the most polished and natural performance in the film. It's hard not to damn The Watermelon Woman with faint praise, but it's better, and more accurate, than to give it no praise at all.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/09/2000
UPC:
0720229909273
Original Release:
1996
Rating:
NR
Source:
First Run Features
Region Code:
0
Presentation:
[Full Frame]
Sound:
[stereo]
Time:
1:33:00
Sales rank:
61,718

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Cheryl Dunye Cheryl
Guinevere Turner Actor
Valerie Walker Actor
Lisa Marie Bronson Actor
Camille Paglia Actor
Brian Freeman Actor

Technical Credits
Cheryl Dunye Director,Screenwriter
Keylan Bradley Casting
Sharon Levin Cohen Casting
Bill Coleman Songwriter,Musical Direction/Supervision
Michelle Crenshaw Camera Operator,Cinematographer
Renae Dinerman Asst. Director
Jimmy Ford Sound Editor
John Gorbec Consultant/advisor
Robert Holzman Production Designer
Tom Jucarone Sound Mixer
Alexandra Juhasz Producer
Michael Light Executive Producer
Gail Lloyd Casting
Joy Malinowski Associate Producer
Jack Mehlbaum Sound/Sound Designer
Burke Moody Co-producer
Rob Sayers Sound Mixer
Paul Shapiro Score Composer
Sharon Stein Production Manager
Barry Swimar Producer
Annie Taylor Editor
Magall Taylor Sound Editor
Cate Wilson Executive Producer

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