Cultural appropriation and gentrification have dwindled down to buzzwords – quick utterances and headline grabs instead of raw in-depth conversations about the havoc and devastation that occur when these processes are implemented. Filmmaker Mariama Diallo and producer Valerie Steinberg wanted to examine how destructive cultural appropriation is to black culture specifically in an age where mega-popular white social influencers are desperately trying to claim black art and history for themselves.
With her film Hair Wolf, Diallo moves beyond a straightforward conversation about the commodification of the black identity – choosing instead to subvert the norm and present her perspective in a horror comedy. Set in modern-day Brooklyn, Hair Wolf centers around a black beauty shop whose staff must fend off a terrifying monster – a white woman determined to suck the life out of black culture.
The film won the Sundance Jury Award in the U.S. short film competition at the Sundance Film Festival. Recently, I sat down to chat with Diallo about Hair Wolf and why it was so necessary for her to make. “There are several layers to the whole origin story of the film,” Diallo chuckled. “On the most immediate level, I was outside my apartment building with my dog and my boyfriend, and I saw a box braid lying on the ground. On any given Brooklyn early morning, you might find a bit of weave or like whatever else it may be. When I saw the box braid, I pointed to it and said to him, ‘Braid?’ (My boyfriend) misheard me, he thought I’d said, “Brain.” So we had a very amusing conversation about zombies and hair salons and zombies in hair salons. That just seemed like a really fun idea to me.”
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