Full disclosure I was one of the Kickstarter backers for Matthew A. Cherry’s short film Hair Love. Having received a copy of the book version, which has become a staple in my kids’ bedtime stories rotation, I thought I knew what to expect going into the short film. However, what I was treated to on screen was something even more charming and enriching than I could have anticipated.
On the surface the film’s premise is a simple one: a father attempts to do his daughters hair for the first time. Normally this would be a set up for outlandish comedic hijinks, but this is not your typical family, at least not in the realm of cinema. The family here is African American and the daughter’s hair cannot simply be thrown up into a ponytail. With time of the essence, the father must utilize every resource at his disposal in hopes of giving his little girl the hair style she wants on her special day.
Conceived as a film that both presents a positive representation of African American fathers and empowers young girls, Hair Love is a richly layered treat. Using just the right amount of humour, the film enlightens the uninitiated to the plight many African American females endure with their hair, while never mocking its subject. It is a celebration of the beauty of natural hair, even if it takes extra effort to manage at times. More importantly the film dispels the absentee African American father stereotype that is common in cinema.
Cherry, who co-directs the film alongside Everett Downing Jr. and Bruce W. Smith, presents a father who is determined to help his daughter at all costs. He may fumble his way out of the gates, but he never gives up on her or himself. This is a message that will resonate with fathers everywhere. The film’s universal appeal is palpable. The central conflict may be related to African American hair, but this bonding journey is one that everyone can relate to on some level. This is especially true when the heartwarming last act explains the significance of the day.
A tale of love, family and perseverance, Hair Love is an absolute delight.