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“Hair Love” is a powerful short film about family and illness


Sony Pictures Animation | YouTube | Fair Use

Giovanna Binci - published on 02/10/20

This adorable story won this year's Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

A haircut is never “just” a haircut.

Women know this very well: we change our hair color to feel more “ourselves,” to shout to the world something we have inside—to sometimes delude ourselves that by lightening our hair color we can wash away other things. We get a haircut or new style to turn the page, as if everything we want to forget, together with our precious hair, would stay on the hairdresser’s floor.

Because yes, hair is sacred, and we only change it when we need to recognize ourselves again when we look in the mirror. Thinking about losing our hair—something so frivolous and yet so decisive for our identity—disconcerts us. It’s something that even men hate—and they fight with baldness problems much more than we women!

When it’s an illness that takes away your sense of dignity, your identity, and makes you start all over again, it’s even more painful: at least, if we still had our hair, we could think of styling it, coloring it, cutting it, and trying to rediscover ourselves in that mirror where, instead, we can’t recognize ourselves anymore.

Thinking about our hair in such a difficult moment is something so trivial and silly, the last on the list of “real” problems.Yet, an animated short, which has also become a book because of its success, reminds us that even something apparently frivolous, like taking care of our hair, can be a gesture of love.

“Hair love” (which received the Oscar last night in the Best Animated Short Film category) reminds us how trivial things are not so irrelevant, and that behind what seems to be only the aesthetic whim of a little girl with seemingly untameable hair, there is much more. It tells us that when we are suffering—the one thing that knocks everyone down, the one thing that takes away our desire to do even the everyday activities that are hardly even meaningful for us when we’re healthy—it’s precisely in those little things that we can start again.

The short made me think that often, for those who are ill, it’s pleasing to see that we, their family and friends, are well, that we aren’t neglecting those simple details such as styling our hair. It helps the sick people stop feeling guilty and worrying about us and the pain and inconvenience their condition might be causing us. We owe it to them, then.

Taking care of ourselves is a simple tangible sign behind those words, “everything’s fine,” “we’re managing, don’t worry,” which often don’t sound at all convincing if we don’t show it in our actions.

Family and illness are delicate issues, especially when they involve a mother, but this colorful video made by Matthew A. Cherry and co-produced with Karen Rupert Toliver with a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter has hit the nail on the head: we can’t help anyone feel better if we neglect ourselves.

A hair tutorial, a little hairspray, and some hairpins seem like nothing, but often they are enough to remind us that, even if you can no longer recognize yourself when you look in the mirror, even if you are ashamed of that hairless head, even if you can’t understand why and accept it, I still see you. No, it’s not just hair: it’s life waiting for you out there, made of simple everyday things, those that now seem far away and lost, those you strive to return to without giving up. We’re waiting for you, and in the meantime, we love you, and we still see you for the beauty that you are.


Read more:
School bus driver braids the hair of a motherless girl every day

Donncha O’Connell

Read more:
Hairdressers who go to incredible lengths for their clients with autism

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