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How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It) (2005)

Unrated | | Documentary | 7 April 2005 (USA)
1:46 | Trailer
Feature-length documentary on renegade filmmaker, novelist, musician and theater impresario, Melvin Van Peebles.


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Joe Angio
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Credited cast:
Marva Allen Marva Allen ... Herself
Emanuel Azenberg Emanuel Azenberg ... Himself
Shelley R. Bonus Shelley R. Bonus ... Herself
St. Clair Bourne St. Clair Bourne ... Himself
Herschel Dwellingham ... Himself (as Hershel Dwellingham)
Janine Evrad Janine Evrad ... Herself (as Janine Euvrard)
Gébé Gébé ... Himself
Dick Hehmeyer Dick Hehmeyer ... Newsreel Narrator (voice)
Gloria Jarecki Gloria Jarecki ... Herself
Henry Jarecki Henry Jarecki ... Himself
Billy Jennings Billy Jennings ... Himself
Woodie King Jr. Woodie King Jr. ... Himself
Spike Lee ... Himself
Madeleine Martineau Madeleine Martineau ... Herself
Richard Milner Richard Milner ... Himself


Feature-length documentary on renegade filmmaker, novelist, musician and theater impresario, Melvin Van Peebles.

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Unrated | See all certifications »


Official Sites:

Official site




English | French

Release Date:

7 April 2005 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Melvin Van Peebles: I zoi mou me tous lefkous See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Breakfast at Noho LLC See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

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User Reviews

Well made and entertaining documentary about Van Peebles
16 February 2007 | by funkyfrySee all my reviews

Rennaisance man Melvin Van Peebles is profiled in this exceptional documentary, which also looks at broader issues of race in America and Europe in terms of the conflicts within the black race concerning representation of values.

Van Peebles is best known for his revolutionary (in more than one sense) early 1970s film "Sweet Sweetback's Baadaaass Song" (see my comments on that film's page). Prior to seeing this film I was also aware of his work on Broadway but I had not seen footage of these shows, nor was I aware of his work in France prior to doing "Watermellon Man" and "Sweetback" in the USA. So this film is very educational concerning Van Peebles for anyone but perhaps his most dedicated fans. But what's really great is how it opens up our view of him as a human being, warts and all. I suppose some might find his attitude towards women to be admirable, but most will be either repulsed or amused. He apparently is quite open about the fact that he will not commit to a monogamous relationship. He keeps his love life very organized however -- his daughter says that he has one girl for Tuesday night, another for Wednesday night -- "and if you're Teusday night's girl, you better not call on Wednesday".

Of course the film features the predictable array of talking heads associated with black music and film -- Gil Scott-Herron, Spike Lee, Elvis Mitchell, Gordon Parks -- talking about how influential Van Peebles was. But I really thought the best aspect of the film was the interviews with Van Peebles' children and the scenes showing Van Peebles' at work on his film "Le Conte du ventre plein" (US title: Bellyfull) and working in the studio on the records.

The film takes special notice of Van Peebles' anti-establishment humor -- and by that I mean both anti-white and anti-black establishment. He delights in making a mockery of black academia and the black intelligentsia's obsession with avoiding stereotypes and presenting the black man in a "positive" light. Van Peebles' attitude is similar to that expressed later by black comedians from Pryor to Chappelle (with his famous "fried chicken" sketch in particular) -- "If I like eating watermelon, why shouldn't I eat the watermelon and enjoy it? Why should I be ashamed of who I am?" Van Peebles talks about buying a spray can of watermelon scented aerosol. He would spray it in his office before white associates would come by. Then they would take a few sniffs and say "wow, Mel, that smells like..... (awkward pause).... cantaloupes". Van Peebles even at his current advanced age never seems to cease to delight at "goosing" people's preconceptions and shocking them out of their sensibilities.

An excellent bio-doc -- should be entertaining and informative to Van Peebles' fans and should also introduce a great number of people to this man's pioneering work.

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