Women in Media-Newark will hold its eighth annual International Film Festival March 28th through April 6th in celebration of Women’s History Month. Working in conjunction with Rutgers University–Newark, its major partner, Pamela Morgan's WIM-N will host the film festival over nine days at six venues. All events are free and open to the public. Two of the film makers came to WBGO to talk about the festival and their respective projects.
In Our Heads About Our Hair is co-produced by Anu Prestonia. This is Prestonia's first documentary. She is an acclaimed internationally known beauty-industry innovator who specializes in Black hair care. In the fall of 2006, Prestonia's company Khamit Kinks moved from Manhattan to return to its Brooklyn roots, completing a circular journey begun in 1989, when it first opened in a Brooklyn brownstone. By 1996 the business had outgrown that shop and moved to Tribeca, where it thrived for a decade. The salon has as a roster of loyal clients and high-profile devotees. Celebrity clients have included Stevie Wonder, Oprah Winfrey, Terry McMillan, Angela Bassett, Lenny Kravitz, Queen Latifah and many others:
“I was kind of obsessed about hair when I was a child. My grandmother was a hair stylist, so I was always having my hair nicely done especially for events and occasions like Christmas, Thanksgiving, those things like that. And then when I moved to New York, I had an experience with getting my hair chemically straightened and my hair fell out and it left an indelible impression upon me at ten years old, wanting to have long hair, and now having no hair. So that’s how I got started with hair. I didn’t know at that time that it would lead down this road, but that experience has led me right here to where I am today.”
Prestonia admits hair care is an important topic for women of color:
“Especially for women, I think that we identify a lot with our hair. And so when I came up with the title (of the documentary) that was based on the many years of experience of speaking with women while I’m doing their hair and finding out all the ways in which their hair has had an impression upon who they feel they are or who they feel they present to the world. How important it is for them to feel good about their appearance has a lot to do with their hair. I was recently in Dubai where most women have their hair covered. That gave me a whole different perspective about how this is a cultural phenomenon, our insistence that our hair define who we are.”
In Our Heads About Our Hair screens April 1 at the Paul Robeson Student Center at Rutgers University-Newark. Prestonia feels her documentary addresses key issues for women:
“Because we have been conditioned to believe that a certain type of hair, a certain length of hair is more desirable than other types and lengths that are usually what we come with naturally.”
Prestonia will also give a natural hair care demonstration at the festival.
While Anu Prestonia joined WBGO Journal host Doug Doyle in studio for the interview, film maker and veteran television news video editor Nicole Franklin joined via phone from St. Louis, Missouri.
Franklin's film Title VII screens April 6th at Rutgers' Express Newark at 54 Halsey Street. Franklin says the 72-minute film focuses on same race discrimination:
“One thing I feel is a bit taboo that we as black people, my culture, that we don’t talk about is when we discriminate against each other, And it is so embarrassing, in your face, can’t avoid it, when it’s in the workplace. So Title VII is actually based on the 1964 Civil Rights Act to prevent race, sex, religion, nation discrimination against employees. And so we still have to rely on that today in some of our situations at work and same race discrimination occurs a lot not only in an all-black firm or just any ethnicity. We talked to some people who have gone through in other ethnicities and said that happens to us in our culture.”
Franklin, who is also an educator, says she's not trying to do something radically different, but she hadn't seem anything in-depth about same race discrimination, especially in the workplace:
“I had an experience when I was 19 years old, a situation where I had a black female superior who really just made my life hell at work.”
The main character of Title VII goes through a difficult day at work:
“It’s a black female CEO who doesn’t hire black employees and she takes a chance on the one guy who comes in for his 9:30 am interview and he changes her world, and we can’t say for the best but it opens her eyes.”
Through her 27 years in the industry, Nicole Franklin has been a television director, stage manager, editor, educator, public speaker, web event host and contributing writer to such publications as The Good Men Project, Toronto-based ByBlacks.com and NBCBLK. Nicole is a book author for Kevin Anderson & Associates where she works as ghostwriter and editor.
Click above to hear the entire interview with Nicole Franklin and Anu Prestonia.