This film was originally selected as an AFI Movie Club pick on October 19, 2020.
Directed, written by and starring Cheryl Dunye, THE WATERMELON WOMAN follows aspiring filmmaker and video store clerk Cheryl, self-referentially portrayed by Dunye, who embarks on a documentary project tracing the unwritten history of an unidentified Black actress spotted in a number of films from the ‘30s and ‘40s.
For the Cinema’s Legacy program at AFI FEST 2020, AFI invited film scholar Racquel Gates to curate a collection of four films that reframes the notion of “classic” through a Black perspective. The program asks viewers to rethink the relationship between blackness and broader cinematic concepts, treating the very idea of “Cinema’s Legacy” as an open-ended question rather than a self-evident statement. Employing the notion of classic film genres and grounded in the 1990s – a period of unprecedented Black film production – this year’s selections are a snapshot of the immense variety of Black films from that era: DEAD PRESIDENTS (heist film), JUST ANOTHER GIRL ON THE I.R.T. (coming of-age), POSSE (the western) and THE WATERMELON WOMAN (romantic comedy).