Cheryl Dunye has become one of my favorite filmmakers recently, mostly because of her shorts but The Watermelon Woman is an outstanding debut. She also stars as the main character and is the first black lesbian to ever direct a feature length film. The Watermelon Woman is one of the key films of the New Queer Cinema movement and a very creative project about Cheryl making a film that tries to find out more about a black actress from the 30’s. I highly encourage people to seek out Dunye’s shorts because she has a powerful voice in a world that typically blocks her out. She stands firmly in her skin and sexuality which is something I will always admire.
Dunye plays a character that is very similar to her named Cheryl who is a young filmmaker with a new project on The Watermelon Woman, a black actress from the 1930’s. She works with her best friend, Tamara at a video store in Philadelphia. When she meets a girl named Diana and starts dating her, Tamara voices her disapproval of the relationship. Cheryl keeps dating and researching The Watermelon Woman until the project is done but it eventually takes a toll on her relationships.
Cheryl Dunye is mesmerizing in front of the camera and a very gifted writer. There are scenarios in The Watermelon Woman that are equally hilarious and poignant. It’s a very 90’s film with a badass soundtrack. Dunye is one of the most unique voices in American film history and I think her career deserves a re-evaluation of some kind. I’m going to keep my eye out for more of Cheryl Dunye’s films and keep checking out the shorts because her content is consistently entertaining and thought-provoking.