It's not everyday that you see an animated short as charming and heartwarming as "Hair Love" — and now, it just won an Oscar!
The six-minute film, written by former NFL wide receiver Matthew A. Cherry, tells the sweet story of an African-American dad who learns how to style his young daughter's hair.
The Sony Pictures short is based on Cherry's children's book of the same name, published by Kokila in May. It originally aired in movie theaters this summer before "Angry Birds 2" and is now available for free online.
As the film begins, viewers meet Zuri, an adorable girl whose hair is a wild mop of curls. Zuri gazes at photos of intricate hairstyles — braids and twists galore — but she's not able to figure out how to create the looks herself.
Enter Zuri's dreadlocked dad, who's at first vexed by Zuri's hair. But dad loves his little girl so much, he consults a video created by Zuri's mom (voiced by Issa Rae of “Insecure”) that gives a tutorial on how to achieve one of Zuri's desired hairstyles.
The movie — which is by turns funny, heartrending, whimsical and ultimately triumphant — captures both Zuri's hopefulness and her father's steely determination. The fact that it does so using barely any dialogue is testament to its power.
As for the whereabouts of Zuri's mom, viewers will have to watch the short film all the way to the end to experience its emotional plot twist.
Cherry, who has no children of his own, told the New York Times in August, “I wanted to see a young black family in the animated world.”
So the athlete-turned-moviemaker created a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $284,000.
One of the fundraiser's donors? Veteran writer and director Bruce Smith ("The Proud Family"), who ended up collaborating on the film with Cherry and Pixar animator Everett Downing Jr. ("Brave" and "Up").
In addition to telling a beautiful story, Cherry wanted "Hair Love" to help combat negative stereotypes.
“Black fathers get one of the worst raps in terms of stereotypes — we’re deadbeats, we’re not around,” he told the New York Times. “The people I know are extremely involved in their kids’ lives.”
Watch "Hair Love" in the video above.
This story was originally published on Dec. 5, 2019.