________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 12 . . . . February 15, 2002

  Black, Bold and Beautiful.

Nadine Valcin (Director). Jennifer Kawaja & Julia Sereny (Producers, Sienna Films) Karen King (Producer, NFB).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1998.
39 min., 30 sec., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9198 124.

Subject Headings:
Women, black-Health and hygiene.
Hair-Care and hygiene.

Grades 6 and up / Ages 11 and up.

Review by Tony Payzant.

*** /4

Braids, dreadlocks, cornrows, afros and weaves: at first glance Black, Bold and Beautiful may appear to be an exploration of nothing more than fancy hairstyles of Black women. Indeed, the front of the videotape case promises "An entertaining and informative film on Black women's hair." Even disregarding the statement's unfortunate wordplay opportunity, it seems a highly inadequate description: this film is not a frivolous look at hairdo selection, it is an intriguing exploration into society in general, as choices about hairstyles come to reflect life choices.

     We meet a variety of Black women who discuss their hairstyle decisions and the factors underlying those decisions - whether parental or peer pressure, a need to assert individuality, or expression of acceptance and pride in one's Blackness. Genuine suffering is shown here - actual physical pain as scalps burn from old-fashioned hot combs or modern chemical hair relaxers, as well as the emotional pain of deep concern over how one's appearance affects one's life. As one of the women puts it:

     "By the time you're, like, six and seven, it's already been drilled into your head that in order for you to attain a certain level of beauty and womanness [sic] at a certain age, you have to relax your hair."

     Another woman points out that those who are obsessed with their hair are, in fact, unknowingly enslaved by it, and certainly eye-opening evidence of this "enslavement" is shown, as women sit quite literally for hours, getting their hair relaxed or having braids, weaves or extensions created.

     Black, Bold and Beautiful shows us both pain and pride as individuality and conformity are expressed through the metaphor of hairstyles. It will interest those with Black hair and those without, and perhaps spur viewers to consider what concessions they, themselves, make to conform to society's current standards of attractiveness. Reading and Writing in the Middle Years summarizes a life-time of work with Canadian teachers. It is as much a tribute as a source of instructional ideas and is a valid addition to a professional development library.


Tony Payzant is a content editor living in Dartmouth, NS.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364