20 South Court Street, Athens, Ohio 45701

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Written, directed by, and starring Cheryl Dunye, THE WATERMELON WOMAN was the first feature film to be directed by a black lesbian when it was released in 1996. Shot in a documentary style and featuring a protagonist named “Cheryl” who is a black lesbian filmmaker like Dunye herself, this humorous (and sexy) film sets out to tell the story of black lesbians in cinema – particularly that of Fae Richards, star of the 1930’s film called “The Watermelon Woman.” Cheryl, however, runs into to problems in her research due to the fact that both Hollywood and other archival institutions by-and-large excluded or ignored black queer women, and the scant information she is able to uncover fails to tell the full story. Since books and documents aren’t adequate source material for her project, Cheryl instead opts to track down people who might have insight on the topic.


Made with an initial budget of $300K which was financed by a grant from the NEA and grass-roots fundraising efforts, Dunye’s humble film has since been recognized as a milestone in New Queer Cinema. Beneath its cheeky surface, THE WATERMELON WOMAN digs deep into the issues surrounding representation in media and the challenges of trying to look at history through a new lens.


Click here to view the rest of the films in the I Love Gay 90’s lineup.


This series is sponsored by Ohio University Pride Center, Ohio University Women’s Center, Ohio University Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, College of Health Sciences and Professions, Women of Color in Athens, City of Athens, College of Fine Arts, Arts for OHIO and the Ohio Arts Council.

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