Hair Love, directed by Matthew A. Cherry (directed episodes of Black-ish and The Unicorn), won the Best Animated Short at this year’s Oscars. A source of pride for many reasons, but I will focus on the fact that this is a Canadian film. Director Cherry is a native of Ottawa.
It is a story aimed at African American fathers. A population which has been not looked kindly upon by the rest of the world. Here is a positive story about them. A battle against the stereotypes.
Zuri is seven-years-old and is having to deal with her mother (voiced by Issa Rae) being in hospital. The mother-daughter relationship is a unique one. On this morning she is having to deal with her hair. Not having the person who usually did it for her. In flashbacks we see the two doing hair and how the mother is a stylist, who has put up hair tutorials online.
It is now up to her father, Stephen, to take up the….comb. He does his best to style his young daughter’s hair. It is his first time attempting it. A tough ask! He fails miserably. Not willing to give up and taking the lead from his wife, he watches her online tutorials and, as such, his second attempt goes much better.
They then head over to the hospital to visit their mother/wive. She is in a wheelchair and is wearing a scarf on her head. The mother takes off her scarf to reveal she is bald. A family hug follows.
Black fathers are often thought of, as a group, as not involved in their family’s life and often men who abandon their families. This is an attempt to combat that wrong and damaging stereotype. Added to that objective is the subject of black hair.
The film began under a Kickstarter campaign and due to its strength was able to be signed by Sony Pictures. As such the animation is of a strong calibre.
It is short at around 6:47 and cute in look and tone, but there is a strong emotional impact involved as well. And that is what makes it such a good film.
Plus there is the fact that it brings to the screen an underrepresented population and shines light on issues that many of us aren’t aware of – like black hair. All done is a non-aggressive way which still succeeds in getting its points across.
The full Oscar winning short film is available to watch above. Enjoy!