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Beyond The Canon: The Watermelon Woman + Imitation of Life

Sat, May 19, 2018
  • 2PM
MEMBERS: $7.50 (free for Level 4 and above)
+  Intro by Alexandra Juhasz (producer, The Watermelon Woman)
May 2018
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Saturday May 19, 2018
Performances no longer available.

Intro by Alexandra Juhasz
(producer, The Watermelon Woman)

The Watermelon Woman

Dir. Cheryl Dunye
With Dunye, Guinevere Turner, Diana Valarie Walker
1996, 90min, DCP


This watershed of 90s New Queer Cinema was one of the first films to speak to both black lesbian identity and the historically stereotyped depiction of black women in Hollywood cinema through the story of a video store clerk (played by director Dunye) who becomes fascinated by an obscure African-American actress from the 1930s known as the Watermelon Woman. With incisive humor, Dunye slyly deconstructs an entire legacy of race and sexuality in the movies.

Imitation of Life

Dir. John M. Stahl
With Claudette Colbert, Louise Beavers, Warren William
1934, 111min, 35mm


The original screen adaptation of Fannie Hurst’s classic weepie—about the relationships between a black housekeeper, her mixed-race daughter, and a working-girl white woman—stars Claudette Colbert alongside Louise Beavers, one of the Hollywood studio era’s most visible black actresses. In contrast to the famous Douglas Sirk remake (screening May 23), 1930s melodrama master John M. Stahl presents this landmark look at American racial attitudes with supreme sincerity.

BAMcinematek's Beyond the Canon—The Watermelon Woman + Imitation of Life (1934)
BAMcinematek's Beyond the Canon—The Watermelon Woman + Imitation of Life (1934)

Released 62 years apart, Stahl’s Imitation of Life (1934) and Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman (1996) perhaps seem like strange bedfellows, but considered together they posit a nuanced, reflective view on the fraught celebrity of black actresses.

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Beyond The Canon
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Two explosive noir masterpieces with complex racial undercurrents.

Sat, Apr 21, 2018