Short film spreads word that all hair styles are worthy of admiration
By John Linderman
Elm Staff Writer
2019’s “Hair Love,” directed by Matthew A. Cherry, was recently awarded Best Animated Short Film at the 2020 Oscars last Sunday. Before the award, the movie had been lauded by both critics and the audience as poignant, comedic, and touching.
The six-minute short depicts the story of Zuri, a young black girl trying to style her long hair. She likes watching videos from the style channel “Hair Love”, which her mother runs. Zuri is caught by her father unsuccessfully trying to style her hair, so he tries styling it himself, even battling it in a boxing ring. Eventually the two go to see the mother, voiced by Issa Rae from the YouTube series “Awkward Black Girl,” who is in the hospital and has lost all her hair. Despite the reveal, Zuri reaches out to hug her mother, and the three leave the hospital embracing as a family.
“Hair Love” began as a Kickstarter project by Cherry in 2017.
“Through this project, it is my hope that we can show a positive image of black fathers and their daughters, while encouraging natural hair and self-love throughout the world through the animated space,” Cherry said on the Kickstarter page.
Before the short, Cherry directed two prior movies, and was a former wide receiver in the NFL. Support for the film reached over $250,000 and even made it into print in May of last year.
The subject of the short is a part of the larger cultural discussion surrounding race and shared experiences. The rise in popularity of sites like Twitter, YouTube, and other social media has brought the conversation to a national level. There is a large discussion on how black women have long been prevented from growing natural hair styles in their career in fear of being labeled unprofessional.
Later in 2019, Congresswoman Ayanna Presley came out as suffering from Alopecia areata, a kind of hair loss that disproportionality affects black women. “Hair Love” has added another chapter to the ongoing discussion which has reached global and political heights.
“It’s a good short, and it does a good job with representation, and it’s especially important to everything that’s going on now,” said senior Felicia Attor.
At the Oscars premier for the short, associate producers Dwayne Wade and Gabrielle Union invited De’Andre Arnold to the red-carpet walk. Arnold had made headlines previously for being suspended from his school for styling his hair in dreadlocks. He told the The New York Times he felt “pride, and validation too” for being invited to the awards show.
The short, which has amassed currently over fifteen million views, is free to watch on YouTube on the SonyAnimations channel. “Hair Love” is the first free online short to be awarded an Oscar, so this platform may become a more popular medium for Oscar-contenders in the future.
In an interview on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Cherry said, “It’s a very universal story, because it just speaks to kids, and sometimes they just ask you to do stuff you don’t know how to do, and if you love them, you’re going to figure it out and step it up, and that’s what the story represents.”