The Watermelon Woman

“A witty exploration of black American culture, past and present. Shooting in breezy, boppy fashion, Dunye soon has two narratives on the go: her quest for the ‘truth’ behind ‘the Watermelon Woman’, a beautiful, undocumented ’30s film actress forever cast as a ‘black mammy’, and her own life working in a video store, bickering with her pal Tamara (Walker) and finding a girlfriend. Both these criss-crossing Philadelphia stories work in their own right. Dunye is fiercely charismatic, and while Tamara may seem like the stereotypically hardline, ‘narrow’ best friend, she also gets some great lines. It’s the search for the Watermelon Woman, though, that really engrosses, throwing up a host of Looking for Langston-style images, as well as marvellous clips of Dunye’s camera-shy mother suddenly denying all knowledge of the subject at hand. (Camille Paglia is a hoot, delivering patronising pearls of wisdom with irritable gusto.)” (Timeout)

1996 Dir. Cheryl Dunye. 1.33:1 Color dcp 90 min.