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Watermelon Contest1900

  • 1.2
Four young black men engage in a contest eating huge slices of watermelon, spitting out seeds and chatting amiably as they go. To be certain, it underlines a cultural stereotype but this early short doesn't employ blackface actors nor make anyone do bug-eyed, fraidy-cat shtick soon ubiquitous in screen African American portrayals. The performers were likely ordinary workers rather than theatrical professionals; they certainly seem to be having fun. It's worth noting that this was at least the fourth movie made under its title. This one, in particular, was shot to replace an 1896 Edison short so popular that all prints in distribution had been worn out by the end of the century. - Dennis Harvey

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Member Reviews (1)

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Sadly, to be certain, in terms of content and theme, this 1900 short is probably one of the earliest films in American cinema to construct popular myths of African American males as brutes or grotesque objects who are deemed to be inhumane. For educational purposes, the short is important because it illustrates to film students the root of popular stereotypes and how they can learn to debunk or dispel them through the creation of characters who have a 'fuller' humanity.