Just before we see the lovable avians and piggies from Angry Birds 2 on the big screen, there’s a just as loveable ‘short’ that plays right before it, Hair Love. The story depicts the story of a young Black girl who tries to do her hair like her mother does (and fails). With a little help from her dad, things are sure to look up, or so we think. In this hilarious short there is an indescribable feeling of love that bursts from the screen while watching this, which makes it a must see in my book. The Knockturnal was fortunate enough to be able to sit down and talk to the writer (Matthew Cherry) and executive producer (Peter Ramsey) of Hair Love.
The Knockturnal: What inspired you to create the story?
Matthew Cherry: I kept seeing all these viral videos of dads doing their daughters hair and I don’t know, it was just a double edged sword because obviously a lot of them are cute and had comedic moments but it was also because people weren’t used to seeing these images. And for me, I just really wanted to do something that was authentic, something that shows African American fathers in a way that you haven’t seen them before, but also do something that young kids in general, but specifically Black girls could see themselves represented. Mainstream media is powerful, you see so many different, variety of images – be that billboards or TV shows and you don’t see yourself and your specific type of hair represented – it can do a lot to affect your self confidence. So for us it was a combination of wanting to represent for Black dads, represent for young Black girls, but also for people who are parents in general and people that are willing to do whatever it is that they have to do to show that they will learn something they didn’t know how to do and make it work for their kids.
Peter Ramsey: I got interested because I knew Matt was a really talented, innovative filmmaker. His story is really interesting going from the NFL to a whole new career as a filmmaker and making it work. And when he shared the story, I thought “wow”. Kinda like he was saying, it builds on the viral videos going around, so it’s really in the moment, but the story that he comes up with deepens it and gives it a deeper message about love and what that means, how a family could bond over something like this. That was the thing that really made me go, “Ok! This isn’t just built on a gimmick”. It really gets to the heart of what this whole thing is about, black hair, fathers and daughters, mothers and daughters. It’s get to the heart of what all of that is about, when you can do this – you just have a good strong story.
The Knockturnal: Something that I really loved was the dynamic of a father and daughter, can you speak more as to your decision to portray and highlight that relationship?
Matthew Cherry: It’s just a world, specifically in the African American community and in the mainstream that there are always these stereotypes that we aren’t involved in our kids’ lives for whatever reason. For this, it’s just been amazing because we’ve had a book that is in the market for a while now and so many people have reached out and said “oh my god I remember when my dad would do this back in the day” or young fathers will say “This is how I had to get my girl ready when my wife was out of town”! So just representing a group that normally isn’t represented. I think the beauty of the project is that the daughter Zuri has to go to her father and try and get her hair done and he learns it, specifically because she wants to show it to her mom. Making that connection if that family dynamic that you normally don’t see in imagism was really special.
Peter Ramsey: To me the notion that Matt and our team were making a film that, there’s never been a film like it before. There’s never been an animated film like this before and that’s a big deal.
The Knockturnal: Do you guys both believe that there’s power in representation through animation, and do you think it would have been altered had it been filmed as a live action?
Matthew Cherry: For me, I’m always the guy thats like when the new animated movie is out I’m always there solo on a Friday morning screening. You can tell that they’re always so well developed and there’s so much time put into the details. It’s one of the few mediums that because it’s an animated project, you know you’re going to get families and just get the widest net in filmmaking. And for us, to have to be able to play in this world and to have all types of people come out to see it, it just means the world and it was very specific. Two years ago, ‘Spider Verse’ wasn’t out yet, ‘Coco’ wasn’t out yet. At the time there were only three movies that featured African American characters; Bébés kid, Princess and the Frog and the Rihanna movie ‘Home’. So we just wanted to do something that was representative in the modern day and show that family dynamic in a world that you haven’t seen before.
The Knockturnal: With this sure to go viral after it’s release to the public, is there a specific message you have for everyone that is going to see this?
Matthew Cherry: It’s really just representative of love. The things that we do for people, even if someone comes to us and we don’t know how to do it, if we love them we’re going to do whatever it takes to do it. I think that’s the message behind the project.
Peter Ramsey: Everyone is looking for a way to show love. Everybody wants to communicate that, whether it’s to your mother or your father or people in your life. Everyone on earth has a need to do that and we all do it in specific ways depending on our background or culture, but everybody has that in common. So I think that’s part of the power that this story has, that it communicates that.