blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Good Hair (2009, Jeff Stilson)

I don’t write a lot of responses to documentaries on The Stop Button. There are many reasons for it, with the primary one being I’m not sure what constitutes a documentary film. But Good Hair is definitely the kind of documentary I respond to here on The Stop Button.

I first heard about it on Elvis Mitchell’s “The Treatment,” when he interviewed Chris Rock about it and Rock talked about how it was hard to get funding together, since the film’s about a feature of black culture and one, as the Rev. Al Sharpton points out in the film, specific to black culture (though the film does bring up weaves–hair extensions–being undiscussed when white women use them).

Talking about Good Hair on its documentary merits alone presents a certain difficulty. While the film follows Rock through his investigation into the business side of black hair products (the majority of the companies making the products are no longer black owned), it’s really about him and his daughters. It’s kind of like Foreskin’s Lament (Foreskin’s Lament is Shalom Auslander’s memoir about growing up as an Orthodox Jew and, more to the point, deciding whether to circumcise his own son. Read more about it here.).

Actually… it’s exactly like Foreskin’s Lament.

Rock’s decision at the end of the film isn’t particularly surprising, but it does make some of the interviewees seem rather vapid and shockingly callous. There’s no Charlton Heston moment here per se, but Nia Long comes real close.

A lot of Good Hair is played as a comedy (the joke, often, being on the interviewee or subject). With some more Foreskin… it really could have transcended the comedic documentary.



Directed by Jeff Stilson; written by Chris Rock, Stilson, Lance Crouther and Chuck Sklar; directors of photography, Cliff Charles and Mark Henderson; edited by Paul Marchand and Greg Nash; music by Marcus Miller; produced by Jenny Hunter, Kevin O’Donnell and Stilson; released by Roadside Attractions.


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