Photo via: Kickstarter.com
Matthew Cherry may be known as an NFL player turned filmmaker who produces a lot of short and feature films, but his latest project is sure to keep his name at the top of discussions about filmmakers adding a new layer to African American images on screen.
With a surge of recent viral videos showing Black dads interacting with their kids, Cherry was inspired to continue this positive portrayal with a new animated short film called "Hair Love", which focuses on an African American father, Stephen, trying to do his daughter Zuri’s hair.
Images courtesy of "Hair Love" character designer, Vashti Harrison
Cherry tells Because of Them We Can that while the concept of a father doing his daughter’s hair is universal to all dads regardless of race, it was important for him to show on screen the dynamic of a Black father-daughter relationship.
"One thing I will say is there is authenticity in specificity," says Cherry. "And being a Black man myself and knowing little girls who don’t feel represented in a lot of these projects, it was important for me to have it be an African American daughter and father."
He adds that while many animated filmmakers are able to creatively express their work with images of purple people, dinosaurs and unicorns, his aim is to bring representation of real people of color to the space as they are often left out.
"Media is impressionable and when little kids see shows, movies and magazines and don’t see people who look like them in a heroic place or complex place or don’t see themselves at all it makes them seem abnormal or an exception to the rule,” he says. “And we’re trying to make them feel normal and have a little Black girl with maybe kinky hair feel like she’s represented.”
On July 10, Cherry launched a Kickstarter campaign to help bring his project “Hair Love” from an on paper idea to a real life animated film. In a little over a week, the campaign surpassed its goal of $75,000 and to date he and his team has raised over $134,000, putting them one step closer to hitting their new stretch goal of $200,000.
"It’s really incredible," says Cherry about the success of his campaign. "The biggest thing I takeaway is that animation is just an expensive medium anyway."
Funds from the campaign will go towards hiring a larger team, editing, completing animation, and more in an effort to make the film as high quality as possible.
"I’m just doing stuff that I wish people did for me," says Cherry in regards to bringing the representations to life that he wish were on screen when he grew up.
To support Cherry’s campaign and to learn more about him and his awesome team, head over to their Kickstarter page here.