The director of the charming new animated short film Hair Love hopes it will start conversations about representation of Black culture in mainstream media.
The six-minute film features a young Black girl named Zuri and her overwhelmed dad as they learn how to style her thick, curly hair — a task usually handled by the girl’s mom. It’s revealed later in the film that her mom isn’t there to help because she’s being treated for cancer in the hospital.
The short previously aired in theatres before showings of The Angry Birds Movie 2 in August. It was released in full on YouTube Thursday.
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The film was written by ex-NFL player Matthew Cherry, who played three seasons as a wide receiver before becoming a filmmaker. It was also produced by several notable celebrities, including Yara Shahidi, Jordan Peele, Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union.
The project started as a Kickstarter campaign in August 2017. Cherry originally set the goal at $75,000 — to cover things like character modelling, visual development and editing — but that was quickly surpassed. Ultimately, he raised almost $300,000 for the film.
“It’s 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 when he launched the campaign.
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On his inspiration for the film, Cherry said he was intrigued by “viral videos of Black fathers interacting with their sons and daughters online.”
He also said there was a lack of representation in animated projects, and he hoped to remedy that with Hair Love.
“When we did this campaign two years ago, there wasn’t a lot of representation in animated projects,” Cherry said in an interview with NPR. “You know, oftentimes they would cast actors of colour but they’d be playing inanimate objects or animals … It was rarely actually seeing a family dynamic in animation.”
Black dads are often portrayed as “not present or deadbeats” in mainstream media, said Cherry. “While obviously those situations do exist, it feels very much so that it’s just disproportionately represented in that way.”
When asked if Hair Love could be made into a full-length film, Cherry said there aren’t any plans — yet.
“We turned in the finished film at the very last possible minute,” he said in an interview. “Right now, we’re enjoying the response to it. When things settle down, we’ll start thinking about how we can continue the story.”