Beyond The Canon
Film Beyond The Canon: The Watermelon Woman + Imitation of Life Peter Jay Sharp Building
BAM Rose Cinemas
May 19, 2018
  • 2PM

Cheryl Dunye’s landmark of 90s New Queer Cinema—a slyly humorous deconstruction of black women archetypes in Hollywood history—screens alongside the 1934 version of the classic race melodrama Imitation of Life.

+ Intro by Alexandra Juhasz (producer, The Watermelon Woman)
MEMBERS: $7.50 (free for Level 4 and above)

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.