By Melanie Nathan, April 26, 2016.
In celebration of its 20th anniversary, Cheryl Dunye’s iconic film The Watermelon Woman (1996) has been restored and digitally remastered for worldwide release and will be screened at The Castro Theater during the San Francisco International Film Festival season this coming Sunday.
SFIFF Expanded explores the cultural and political impact of this the first feature film directed by an African American lesbian, recalling how its wide release to critical acclaim marked a watershed moment for the New Queer Cinema of the 1990s, and the ways in which it continues to inspire filmmakers, artists and audiences around the globe. Following the screening, Dunye will appear in person for an after-film conversation with San Francisco State Assistant Professor of Sexuality Studies, Darius Bost, who is currently working on an interdisciplinary study of black gay cultural movements during the early era of the AIDS epidemic.
A video store clerk and fledgling filmmaker, Cheryl, playing a version of herself, becomes obsessed with the “most beautiful mammy,” a character she sees in a 1930s movie. She embarks on a documentary about this “Watermelon Woman,” along the way unpacking LGBT and Black film history and finding parallels between that Depression-era actress and herself. This is social critique at its most charming and audacious.
The Watermelon Woman was awarded the Teddy Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival and best feature in L.A.’s OutFest, Italy’s Torino, and France’s Creteil Film Festivals.g
Cheryl Dunye, born in Liberia, received her BA from Temple University and her MFA from Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts. She has received numerous national and international honors for her work in the media arts. Her fourth feature film THE OWLS, was celebrated at national and international film festivals in 2010. Her third feature film, Miramax’s, MY BABY’S DADDY, was a box office success and played at theaters nationwide. Dunye’s second feature, the acclaimed HBO Films, STRANGER INSIDE, garnered Dunye an Independent Spirit award nomination for best director in 2002. Dunye’s other works have been included in the Whitney Biennial and screened at festivals in New York, London, Tokyo, Cape Town, Amsterdam and Sydney.
Dunye has served on the Directors Guild of America’s Independent Council and on the advisory board for New York’s Independent Film Project’s Gordon Parks Award. She was also a mentor for IFP/ West Project Involve and a board member of Los Angeles OUTFEST. Presently she is Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Queer Cultural Center, sits on the board of Radar Productions, and is on the advisory board of Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project.
In addition Dunye has received grants from the Astraea Foundation and Frameline; a recipient of a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts; a fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation; and graced with the prestigious Anonymous was a Woman Award as well as a lifetime achievement award from Girlfriend’s Magazine.
Based in San Francisco and Los Angeles, Dunye is now at work on several new projects.
Screening: San Francisco International Film Festival, SFIFF Expanded – The Watermelon Woman , starring: Cheryl Dunye, Guinevere Turner, Valerie Walker, Lisa Marie Bronson, Cheryl Clark, Brian Freeman, | Director/writer: Cheryl Dunye, Producer(s): Alexandra Juhasz, Barry Swimar,Cinematographer(s): Michelle Crenshaw
Where: Castro Theater, 429 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114
When: Sunday, May 01 2:00 pm
Cheryl Dunye and producers Marc Smolowitz and Alexandra Juhasz, with guest moderator Darius Bost are expected to attend the screening
Event Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1712801462294330/