Winter 2010 Documentary series
Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 7:00pm
Directed by Jeff Stilson
Screenplay by Lance Crouther, Paul Marchand, Chris Rock, Chuck Sklar, Jeff Stilson
Rated PG ·
What more can be said about black people and their hair? Everything.
The subject has inspired countless song lyrics, books, films and kitchen-counter arguments. The politics, the economics and even the physics of black hair sometimes trigger obsession. Now everyone can find out what all the fuss is about, with zany comedian Chris Rock (Madagascar, Bee Movie) as a guide.
Acting as African America’s Michael Moore, Rock goes front and center in this investigative documentary that is both hilarious and informative. It began with an innocent question from his young daughter: “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?” In black families “good” hair means straight hair, and it’s been the source of pain and envy ever since African slaves first digested European beauty standards. Today, women on limited incomes pay thousands of dollars each year to maintain a straight-hair weave – or expect their men to pay for them. To assist in the exploration of this trend, the Reverend Al Sharpton, interviewed by Rock in a light mood, sermonizes on the historical significance of his processed ’do.
Rock is bemused as he goes from salon to street corner to industrial giant, but he asks tough, smart questions. Aided by both ordinary people and celebrities – actress Nia Long, author Maya Angelou – he aims to bring common sense to an arena ruled by vanity and warped custom. Still, there’s no denying the incredible creative ferment brought on by this desire to change and improve one’s hair. Visiting an annual contest for black hair stylists, Rock watches as competitors whip up coiffures that seem straight out of science fiction.
Underpinning it all is a hidden economy that stretches from those living in America’s black neighbourhoods, to the businessmen who harvest women’s hair in India, to the Korean American brokers who deal straight black Asian hair to black women so their manes can look more European. It’s a black thing, but everybody’s involved.