Tuesday, October 27, 2009

GOOD HAIR (2009)

Directed by Jeff Stilson

Where & When: Beverly Center 13, West Hollywood, CA. October 25, 2009 12:15PM

I remember as a young boy being told by someone, most likely a relative, that I had good hair because it was straight when cut really close. Even then, I thought it was strange that my hair was considered "good" but I also was very proud of being told this. I didn't know why but I was sure this was a good thing to have.

What exactly is "good hair"? It is African-American hair that is straight and flowing and "bad hair" is considered to be hair that is nappy or very curly. The documentary, "Good Hair" has helped expose a subject that is not discussed much in the African-American community but it is just as much of a divisive issue as skin color and interracial dating.

Chris Rock narrates and interviews an assortment of celebrated African-American women (and a few men) who discuss the importance, the extensive choices and the outrageous expense of maintaining their hair. Some of the people who expressed their opinions on hair were Maya Angelou, Nia Long, Raven-Symone, Ice T and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

We follow some colorful contestants of the Bonner Bros. Hair show that is held every year in Atlanta. Hair stylists from all over the world compete against each other to show off their skills in cutting hair in an elaborate production number where there is no such thing as "over the top".

Mr. Rock also takes us on a tour of the factory that makes the chemical that straightens black hair and then proceeds to show us how dangerous this stuff really is. These chemicals can disintegrate a soda can and on a human being, this relaxer can cause scalp irritation, breakage and even hair loss but it appears to be worth it for many as the price of beauty.

I was raised with my mother and three sisters, so I know first hand about all that is involved in making sure that their hair was just "right". I remember the many tears my sisters' cried after being burned by a hot comb. I also remember having to spend hours waiting impatiently in a beauty shop while my family was getting their hair did. I was so glad when I was old enough to stay home while they were out getting their hair straightened.

I really enjoyed "Good Hair" and found it brought to light some disturbing ideas. It is amazing to me how to this day, African-American hair in it's natural state is still considered not right by not only by Caucasians but also by some African-Americans. This was very telling when Mr. Rock was interviewing some recent college graduates. He asked them if someone came to a job interview with dreadlocks or an Afro, would they hire them? They said that they might not because it didn't look "professional".

Mr. Rock was the perfect person to present the subject with the right amount of humor, history as well as some food for thought. "Good Hair" is definitely worth checking out.