Review – Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry (USA)

Directed by Matthew A. Cherry, Everett Downing Jr., and Bruce W. Smith; Hair Love is a 2019 animated short that follows the difficulties a young man encounters in doing his daughter’s hair for the first time. The film won the Oscar for the Best Animated Short at the 2020 Academy Awards.

Little Zuri has an Afro that is truly unruly and Zuri wants her father to tend to her hair, just like her mom used to. The father, who hasn’t done such a thing before, is obviously hesitant but puts his apprehensions aside to please his daughter and do the best he can. Hilarity ensues as Zuri’s hair and Zuri’s father engage in a battle of wits and perseverance to see who comes out on top.

A particular aspect that we loved about Hair Love is that its animation has a very hand-drawn feel to it and thus, the whole story feels very lively and vibrant. The animators have used both color and movement to the benefit of the story and thus, a coloring book like palette comes alive on the screen seamlessly. In addition to the father and the daughter, the house cat is also a significant presence and its antics are similar to those of animal sidekicks usually found in classic Disney films.

“I wanted to give kids a character that normalizes and celebrates black hair,” Cherry told NBC News. “Black fathers get a bad rap in mainstream media, so I also wanted to show them as present and caring, versus the deadbeat dad stereotype that is often ascribed to them in film.”

The film nails both the zany energy that young kids have and the overworked and tired parents trying to keep up with them. The film not only combats the stigma surrounding African American hair but also the reputation of Black fathers who are often portrayed in the media as being deadbeats and absent parents. It is great to see a wholesome Black family depicted on screen with none of the emotional baggage that is frequently shown in mainstream media. In this quest, the film moves to be inspirational to black families as well.

Hair Love has an important message. Not only does it bring awareness to the diversity of hair styles in different racial groups, it also highlights that people should be comfortable in their own skin. It doesn’t matter if one has a thick head full of hair, like Zuri, or has no hair, like Zuri’s mom. What matters is positivity, love and embracing the unique characteristics of oneself.

The film will not only make people with luscious long hair confident about their appearance but will also inspire cancer patients to feel more at ease in their own skin. Lively, moving and heartwarming, Hair Love is a celebration of both individuality and racial roots set against the backdrop of a healthy father daughter relationship and the joy that embodies the initial years of our newborns.

Director Biography – Matthew A. Cherry

Matthew A. Cherry is an American film director, writer, producer, and former American football player. He wrote and directed two independent films, The Last Fall (2012), and 9 Rides (2016). He is best known for the 2019 Academy Award-winning animated short film, Hair Love. The Kickstarter campaign for Hair Love raised nearly $300,000 and broke the record for the highest amount raised for any short film on the platform.

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