Directed by: Jeff Stilson
Starring: Chris Rock, Rev. Al Sharpton, Nia Long, Maya Angelou
I have to say, the topic of this documentary had me curious from the get-go because I was simply interested to see if it could possibly make a decent documentary. Well, the answer is yes, it most definitely did. Good Hair came to fruition after Chris Rock’s young daughter asked him “why don’t I have good hair?” Being a man, he had no idea how to answer the question but began to ask himself, what is good hair? What does good hair mean to a black woman and what does hair say about African-American identity?
His search brings him to a hair convention in Atlanta, a barbershop in Harlem, a temple in India and many other interesting places. To discuss here what truths Chris Rock reveals in this documentary would ruin the element of surprise, as some of the content is actually quite shocking. However, Rock never attempts to be Michael Moore. The subject is treated with amusement and respect but never over-dramatic or heavy. Chris Rock proves to be a smart, funny guide through the black hair industry and he makes the film a joy to watch at all times. There was not one dull moment in this documentary, every point that is discussed is utterly fascinating and usually hilarious.
There is a sad reality that black women’s sense of beauty is based on Asian and European women’s hair and that these women feel having and Afro is seen as unkempt. There are two popular alternatives. One is relaxant, which straightens black women’s hair. This relaxant is a frighteningly potent chemical which strips the hair and burns the scalp, but it permanently straightens the hair. The other option is a weave, which is a fascinating concoction. A weave is a wig, literally sewn into the hair. It takes hours to fit and they are jaw-droppingly expensive. Rather chauvinistically, but still very interesting, Rock chooses to focus not on the economic ramifications of this constant expense in black women’s lives, but rather the expense on black men. He asks if they worry when they meet a woman, about paying for their weaves for potentially the rest of their lives. He discusses with them the issue of touching the weave. Apparently, this is a big problem between black men and women, one man claiming he hasn’t touched a black woman’s hair since 1986, and he remembers that occasion vividly.
Good Hair is an exceptional documentary which manages to shock, while making you laugh. It is brimming with loveable and fascinating characters and most importantly, it is infused with a sense of fun and good natured curiosity. This is delightfully insightful and incredibly entertaining. I cannot recommend this film highly enough. The random story of black women’s hair is one of the most fascinating stories you’ll see all year. If you don’t believe me, check it out for yourself!
- Charlene Lydon