Rachel Wang Joins the Images of Black Women film festival for the fifth consecutive year of celebrating the African descent of women in cinemas. The director of the critically acclaimed documentary known for the big hair and bigger egos, talks about her hair documentary Afro Saxons. She gives Flavour her first handed insight on the compelling and competitive world of hairdressing, strand by strand.
Firstly, of all topics to document… why hair?
We wanted to follow four interesting salons through to the black hair awards; we were particularly interested in the ambition and drive of the stylists; intrigued by the exciting and flamboyant sculptural styles they create. From my prospective, as a black woman, Afro salons are places that have never been shown accurately on video or film.
When we looked for funding, we were told the film was too niche- But in film, you have to be persistent. We did not receive any funding so we made it with just our talent and the resources of Chocolate Films. At the time we started we had one HD camera, a couple of lights and a microphone and no staff. It’s difficult, but not impossible
They say ‘A black woman’s pride is her hair’…..
Throughout history our hair has had cultural importance to show both pride and beauty from Africa in 1500s to Afros worn in the 70s as part of the civil rights movement. In Afro Saxons we show today’s afro hair stylists priding themselves in creating beautiful afro hairstyles for afro Caribbean women- 21st century style! I feel that this is important, and also informal. We mainly hope that people enjoy the film, enjoy the subjects, enjoy the hairstyles and go away feeling educated.
It is an important film as it is a positive and honest look at black Britain today. It goes beyond the clichés to focus on ordinary people pushing themselves to achieve.
Challenging the stereotypes…
There is still a lot of stereotyping because the people that usually make programmes and films know little or nothing about the people they are portraying. There is an exaggeration of the negative actions of the black community which then encourages further clichés. When was the last time you saw a film shot in Brixton, Peckham or Tottenham that was not about crime or violence? Conversely, there are more black directors. E.g. Tim Story (Fantastic Four) who are making it big. The next stage is for black filmmakers to challenge the stereotypes of black presence in major films.
In challenging that, it feels great to be a part of the Images of Black Women Film Festival. I am a long time supporter of the festival. My short sci-fi drama, Heyday, won the short film award 3 years ago, so I am delighted that my debut feature is being screened at this supportive, warm and fun festival!
Words by Simone Byer