The Watermelon Woman is a Bushel of Fun
The Watermelon Woman
Directed by Cheryl Dunye
Written by Cheryl Dunye
A few months ago I watched Nisha Ganatra’s Chutney Popcorn and was charmed by it’s 90’s indie energy;* so it was for this film, an imperfect, yet incredibly engaging story of a video store clerk on a quest to find out more about a Black actress from the 1930s. While the production values are low, the charisma is high, and this film is funny.** While it’s a Good film for anyone to watch, it’s Recommended if you were of a certain age (say, 16–30) in the mid-90s, have an interest in new Queer cinema, or are curious about what’s up with that mysterious 1930s actress Cheryl is so interested in.
The verdict: Good
Cost: Free via Kanopy. It’s also streaming for free right now on the Criterion Channel
Where watched: at home
Consider also watching:
*And yes, the many markers of the 90s were part of its charm for me.
**”Welcome to the Center for Lesbian Information and Technology.” (CLIT) (Ha!)
- What are you willing to forgive in shoddy filmmaking as long as something else is present?
- What’s your favorite low-budget movie from the 1990s?
Favorite IMDB trivia item:
(None because they are both too spoiler-y)(Here’s one from a New Republic article.)
Dunye made The Watermelon Woman on a shoestring budget of $300,000—about one tenth of which came from an NEA grant. The film received limited attention when it was originally released in the U.S., but that didn’t stop it from generating controversy when Michigan Republican Pieter Hoekstra cited it as inappropriate use of government funds. He tried unsuccessfully to get his colleagues in Congress to deduct Dunye’s $31,500 grant from the NEA budget, citing NEA funding for a series of gay and lesbian films that “most Americans would find offensive” and referring to The Watermelon Woman specifically as “patently offensive and possibly pornographic.”Moira Donegan, New Republic
Other reviews of The Watermelon Woman: