The Watermelon Woman, Cheryl Dunye’s landmark 1996 indie, will receive this year’s Legacy Award, recognizing a classic film that continues to speak to and inspire today’s filmmakers.
When it debuted 25 years ago, The Watermelon Woman was the first narrative feature from an out, black lesbian. Dunye played a version of herself, a documentary filmmaker determined to uncover the story of black actress Fae Richards, credited only as “The Watermelon Woman” in a film called Plantation Memories. The investigation into Richards’ story by Dunye’s character mirrors the events in her own life, as the film explores sexuality, representation and filmmaking conventions in wholly unique and often hilarious ways.
“Cinema Eye has long been a home for work that pushes the lines that separate fiction and nonfiction,” said Sarah Harris, the chair of the Cinema Eye Feature Nominations Committee. “Cheryl Dunye thrived in that space, referring to her work as ‘Dunyementaries’, and creating lasting art in the intersection of documentary, fiction, personal history and imagination. We are thrilled to celebrate Cheryl and her landmark work, The Watermelon Woman, at this year’s Cinema Eye Honors.”
The Watermelon Woman
Written and Directed by Cheryl Dunye
Produced by Alexandra Juhasz and Barry Swimar
Edited by Annie Taylor
Cinematography Michelle Crenshaw
Original Score Paul Shapiro