Monday, 1 February 2010
Long Play: Good Hair
Chris Rock on the set of Good Hair
"Fresh, funny and altogether fascinating, audiences will wig out" - Variety
"Hilarious" - Vanity Fair
The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) presents the Australian premiere season of the revealing documentary Good Hair (2009), starring funny man Chris Rock.
When his daughter poses the question "Daddy, how come I don't have good hair?", Rock embarks on a hilarious quest to explore the ways in which having and wanting so-called 'good hair' effects the everyday lives of the African American community and ultimately seeks a way to address the conundrum as a father of two girls.
From beauty shops to barber shops to street corners, Rock quizzes big-business, hair professionals, celebrities, consumers, husbands and boyfriends who talk candidly about the sexual and economic politics of hair.
Beginning his odyssey in Atlanta, Rock visits the renowned Bronner Brothers' International Hair and Beauty Show where he discovers some staggering statistics on the hair industry in relation to the African American community. The annual 3-day event culminates in an extraordinary hairdresser talent quest that director Jeff Stilson cleverly harnesses as a throughline, following each of the four finalists as they prepare for their final performance - an absurd stage show - bringing the documentary to a head.
Rock investigates all the so-called 'antidotes' to natural African American hair in great detail. From chemical relaxers (dubbed 'creamy crack') to full weaves; he interviews a girl as young as six having her hair relaxed (although not the youngest to do so by far), visits the plant where relaxant is produced, travels to India to discover where weave hair comes from and talks to Korean hair 'dealers', inevitably tearing the wig off a multi-million dollar industry.
Deeper still, Rock's interviews reveal the impact 'good hair' has on the everyday lifestyle of African Americans, their hip pocket, their time, their partners, their families and, for some their most trusted relationship of all - their hairdresser. Perhaps most surprising is this funny man's ability to tap into the emotion and psychology of African American women to capture the issues at the root of having 'good hair.'
Among the celebrity interviews are musicians Salt n Pepa, Eve and Ice-T, actresses Salli Richardson-Whitfield (I Am Legend), Tracie Thoms (Cold Case, The Devil Wears Prada) and Nina Long (The Cleveland Show), record producer Andre Harrell, activist Reverend Al Sharpton and distinguished author Maya Angelou who lays the foundation of the quest for 'good hair' when she exclaims "hair is a woman's glory."
In this exposé, Rock does not shy away from the tough, smart questions in favour of comedy. Rather, he manages to strike a delicate balance between being sensitive, informative and highly amusing.
ACMI Head of Film Programs Richard Sowada believes that Rock's seemingly simple, comedic approach to this topic gives him a certain power when it comes to unveiling deeper social concerns.
"I never get tired of the 'truth is stranger than fiction' attraction of documentary and Good Hair goes all the way in satisfying that desire for me" he says. "The film's simple and open approach to the issue belies the complexity of a deeper discussion on personal and cultural identity. Rock manages to tease that out so naturally and with a great amount of honest humour."
Since bursting onto the comedy scene in 1989 as a cast member of Saturday Night Live, Rock has become a seasoned live stand-up performer known the world over. As an actor he has appeared in films such as The Longest Yard, Nurse Betty and Lethal Weapon 4 as well as Head of State, which also marked his directorial debut. Rock has also performed voice roles such as in the Madagascar animated films and narrated productions such as the critically-acclaimed Everybody Hates Chris, a satirical series based on his childhood experiences which he also executive produced. Rock is the winner of three Emmys® and three Grammys and has been hailed by Time Magazine as both the Funniest Man in America and one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. He is also writer and executive producer of Good Hair.
Director Jeff Stilson is a stand-up comedian, writer and producer. His writing credits include The Chris Rock Show (for which he won the 1999 Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety or Music Program), The Late Show with David Letterman, The Daily Show, The Wayne Brady Show and Da Ali G Show among others. As a producer of the popular reality program The Osbournes, he shared in the Emmy for Outstanding Non-Fiction Program in 2002. Having written for some of the world's greatest comedians, Stilson is regarded as the 'comedian's comedian.' Whenever in Australia in the 1990s, he regularly featured on Logie-winning variety program The Panel and in 2009 took to the Australian stand-up circuit touring the country in a sell-out show with two of the program's favourites, Glenn Robbins and Mick Molloy. Good Hair is Stilson's debut feature film.
Good Hair won the Special Jury Prize for US documentary at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.
The Australian premiere of Good Hair is on Friday 2 April and it will screen until Wednesday 21 April exclusive to ACMI.
For more information and session times please visit http://www.acmi.net.au/
Jeff Stilson, 95 mins, USA, 2009, Digital Betacam, English. Courtesy: Madman Entertainment
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