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If you watched “The Angry Birds Movie 2” in a movie theater this year, you’d have been lucky enough to see a beautiful animated short film, “Hair Love.” For everyone else, it’s just been uploaded to Twitter and YouTube — and viewers are going crazy for it.
The seven-minute short, created and co-directed by NFL player-turned-filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry and produced by Sony Pictures Animation (with Dove as a brand sponsor, as listed in the credits), tells the story of Zuri, a gorgeous little girl with a big Afro. Her mom (Issa Rae) isn’t around to style her hair, so her dad Stephen needs to step in. He struggles at first, but he and Zuri manage to figure out how to tame those curls, just in time for a very important occasion.
Dealing with beauty, family and overcoming challenges, it’s one of the sweetest shorts you’ll have seen for a long time.
Cherry, who moved into filmmaking in 2007 and has directed the features “The Last Film and “9 Rides,” had been mulling over the idea for “Hair Love” for a while (he was initially inspired by videos he had watched of African-American dads trying to style their daughters’ hair) before he launched a Kickstarter appeal in 2017.
“Through this project, it is my hope that we can show a positive image of black fathers and their daughters, while encouraging natural hair and self-love throughout the world through the animated space,” he wrote.
AdAge reports the campaign went on to break a Kickstarter record by raising more than $284,000, the most achieved by any short film idea on the platform.
In an interview on NPR, Cherry — who is not a dad himself — explained that the depiction of a black man in a loving, tender role was crucial.
“We really get a bad rap in mainstream media, particularly black fathers. There’s always the stereotype that … we’re not present or [are] deadbeats … And while obviously those situations do exist, it feels very much so that it’s just like disproportionately represented in that way,” he said. “I have a lot of friends that are young fathers, and they’re all willing to do whatever it takes for their young girls.”
Viewers of “Hair Love” have hailed it a resounding success.
“This is SO BEAUTIFUL,” viewer Bellamy Young wrote on Twitter. “Find 7 minutes today to have yourself a really solid happy-cry.”
This is SO BEAUTIFUL. Find 7 minutes today to have yourself a really solid happy-cry. 😍😭😍 BRAVO to you @MatthewACherry & to everyone who gave their heart to make #HairLove come alive.❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ https://t.co/S1SLFlRGd1
— Bellamy Young (@BellamyYoung) December 5, 2019
Teacher Keith Ferrell revealed on Twitter that his students had watched “Hair Love” in class and even shared a pic of his “adorable niece on Crazy Hair Day!”
3PA read Hair Love and viewed the video today. It was awesome to see students’ understanding of both the text and the video. They definitely must be shared together. I just had to share a pic of my adorable niece on Crazy Hair Day! #hairlove pic.twitter.com/84rMCXIzl4
— Keith Ferrell (@keithferrell4) December 11, 2019
And one dad described the short as “a gift.”
“It was like looking at my daughter in that short,” @Ricidoway tweeted. “I can’t wait to get off work to share it with her. I said before she was born that I’d learn to do her hair, and I haven’t. I need to fix that. I’m missing an opportunity to bond even more w/my lightning bolt”
With art by New York Times bestselling illustrator Vashti Harrison, it’s the perfect stocking filler for every kid this holiday season — and their dads, too.