Long known for being a funnyman, Chris Rock is also a film director, having done 'Head of State' and 'I Think I Love My Wife.' Along with the latter film, Rock has discussed plenty of women's issues in most of one-man shows. Now comes his latest creation, 'Good Hair,' a documentary about African American hair culture.
An exposé of comic proportions, 'Good Hair' visits hair salons and styling battles, scientific laboratories and Indian temples to explore the way black hairstyles impact the activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationships and self-esteem of black people.
Celebrities such as Ice-T, Kerry Washington, Nia Long, Paul Mooney, Raven-Symoné, Maya Angelou and Rev. Al Sharpton all candidly offer their stories and observations to Rock while he struggles with the task of figuring out how to respond to his daughter, who asks Rock why she doesn't have good hair. What he uncovers is that black hair is a big business that doesn't always benefit the black community, and little Lola's question might well be bigger than his ability to convince her that the stuff on top of her head is nowhere near as important as what is inside.
In speaking with Black Voices, Rock talks about his journey in putting this taboo subject out for the world to see.
How long did it take for you to put the film together?
Chris Rock: I've been on this for two years, on and off. We went to India for a few days, and then you're off for some two months, and then we had to shoot the hair show.
What inspired you to do this
CR: My initial inspiration was the hair show, which I thought would be bigger in the film, but it was the history of the hair that was more appealing. I never wanted to do a historical documentary. It was supposed to be the hair show, what women walk around in, and let's explore these choices. When we started, it wasn't about the women, it was both women and men. As we tested the film, no one was interested in the men, so we scratched that idea. The only men in the film are those talking about women. I want people to walk out saying my film was funny.
How was the experience of going to a hair show?
CR: It's like a sporting event. People really take this stuff serious. If I'm ever in Atlanta, I would definitely go to a Bronner Bros. hair show.
How challenging was it to edit the film and leave some things out?
CR: The hardest thing about doing a documentary is that it's all in the cut. With an average film, you have a script, but with a doc, you are making it as you go along. It's a long process in the end. It's like having to cut five films into one.
How did you convince Raven-Symone, Nia Long and other celebrities to go on camera and talk about their hair?
CR: Well, I have directed a couple of movies, and I know when directors call me for anything, I definitely call them back. I knew Nia and met Raven a couple of times. For everybody in the movie, two people got cut. Anybody who wasn't ready to spill their guts ended up on the floor.
Do you think you told the whole story? Was there anything left out?
CR: When you make a film, you are telling a story. Seeing women without chemicals is beautiful, but is it a story? If you run a newspaper, do you do stories on people who didn't get shot yesterday? The guy who got shot is far more interesting than the one who didn't, just like a woman with a relaxer or a weave is an interesting story. Tracie Thoms is in the film, and she represents natural beauty. She doesn't have anything in her hair.
There's a scene in the film in which a little girl is getting a weave. You start the film off by asking yourself if your daughters need one. Do you think so?
CR: There is no reason for a child to have a weave or a relaxer. That's just the mom going overboard. That always upsets me seeing a kid with a weave. Now, they are locked into a hair style and something that they have no control over.
CR: Next up is the film 'Death at a Funeral,' which comes out on April 16. It's me, Martin Lawrence and Tracy Morgan. And it's a pretty funny movie. It's a lot different from the original film. That film is very British. I also have 'Grown Up' after that with Adam Sandler and Kevin James.
Note: Since this interview, Rock has been sued for plagiarism for his film and has also signed on to star in 'Will You Be My Black Friend,' which will be produced by Oprah Winfrey.