Cheryl Dunye

Cheryl Dunye: The Watermelon Woman

"A wry and exhilarating comedy, at once romantic and sharply observant." Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles theatrical revival 1996, 85 min., screened in Beta SP
Jack H. Skirball Series

Cheryl Dunye's "saucy, daring, insidiously smart debut" (The Boston Phoenix) stands as the first-ever theatrical feature directed by an African American lesbian. The Watermelon Woman tells the story of Cheryl, played engagingly by Dunye herself, who develops a fascination with 1930s actress Fae Richards--a fictional character confined to playing "Mammy" roles in movies by a Dorothy Azner-type director. As part of the production, New York photographer Zoe Leonard shot cleverly constructed still images of Fae Richards and in the process (re)invented a history running counter to the invisibility of black women in early Hollywood and black lesbians in general. The winner of the Teddy (the Berlinale) and Outstanding Narrative Feature (Outfest) awards, The Watermelon Woman also managed to raise the hackles of unreconstructed reactionary Jesse Helms, who called the work "flotsam floating down a sewer."

In person: Cheryl Dunye

Curated by Bérénice Reynaud and co-presented with Kristin Pepe/Outfest.

Funded in part with generous support from Wendy Keys and Donald Pels.

Associated Images: 

MON 5/11
8:30 pm

G - General Audience

M - REDCAT Members

ST - Students

CA - CalArts Students/Faculty/Staff