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Watch This! Hair Love

The story behind Hair Love is as inspiring as the short itself. Starting off from a concept by former NFL player Matthew A Cherry, it went from a record breaking Kickstarter, to being picked up by Sony Pictures Animation and ultimately winning an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short. Not bad for someone entirely new to animation.

Cherry enlisted animation veterans Everett Downing Jr (Disney and DreamWorks alumni) and Bruce W. Smith (The Proud Family, Bebe's Kids) as co-directors, and Into The Spider-Verse director Peter Ramsey as executive producer. Character designs come from artist Vashti Harrison.

The film stars a young African-American girl named Zuri and her father, Stephen.  We first meet Zuri as she is attempting to use a YouTube tutorial to style her own unruly hair. It's fair to say, it doesn't quite go to plan, and Stephen has to step in. The only problem is, he's never done it before.

Part of the inspiration behind the short is the lack of representation in much of mainstream animation. Although things are changing (slowly), it's still relatively rare to see the African American experience represented in this way- and produced by a largely African American creative team, even more so. The film will definitely strike a chord with Black audiences around the world, and is designed "to promote hair love among young men and women of colour".

After Sony picked it up, the film screened in US cinemas in front of Angry Birds 2. This, along with the Oscar nomination proves its wide mainstream appeal. As is so often the case, in telling a very specific tale for one culture, it's managed to hit on an incredibly universal one. Anyone, from any background, will be able to relate to the warmth and heartfeltness the short radiates.

The 2D animation itself is exquisite, with Harrison's designs coming to life in a gorgeous picture-book style. Zuri's hair is rendered with a distinctive texture, giving the combined result a one of a kind look.

It's told essentially without dialogue. The only voice we hear in the whole film comes from the tutorial Zuri is watching (voiced by Issa Rae). The storytelling is masterfully done, and the way it subtly works towards the final emotional revelation is skilfully done. What could have easily been overly schmaltzy is instead a brilliant example of what animated shorts can achieve.




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