Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Good Hair

Good Hair
Grade: B
Cast: Chris Rock
Director: Jeff Stilson
Free Admission Granted

What a pleasant surprise.

Chris Rock channels Michael Moore. Instead of the topic of corporate greed or government malfeasance, he does it on the topic of black women and their hair. The result is a refreshing look at the love and mania caused by our natural - and unnatural - tops.

We start the documentary at a yearly hair product extravaganza in Atlanta for hair products. There we learn that 80 percent of the market for these products comes from Black Americans. Hairstyles are that important. Then we meet the flamboyant contestant and get a feel for their flamboyant performances. We move from there to black men and women jawing for nearly two hours about all facets of hair, from self-esteem to sex.

While that might seem trivial, the thing is that the film isn’t without substance. Special attention is paid to how hair in India shorn at temples ends up in the United States as part of a weave, which is the biggest trend in black female hairstyles. Likewise , the film pays attention to the fact that black hair products are now rarely sold by black-owned companies, a fact that makes Al Sharpton talk about how this constitutes economic exploitation. The film is also very frank about the near torture that the women go through to get their hair the way they want it, often as sported by white models. The most eye-opening moment is when a scientist dips Coke cans into the ingredients of hair straightener and watches them dissolve.

In this it sort of mirrors The Cove, except with more purpose and less porpoise. It is alternately humorous and engaging, while also gaining real interest and credibility in detailing the business and sometimes disturbing dealings behind finding the perfect do. Rock does an excellent job of bridging both sides and making this documentary something worth seeing.

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