Back in 2016, Matthew A. Cherry noticed a trend online: viral videos of black fathers doing their children’s hair. The online phenomenon inspired the film director and former American football player to launch a Kickstarter campaign, and venture fully into his first animated project. The result, Hair Love is a beautifully-animated short film, created in the hope of portraying a positive image of black fathers and their daughters while celebrating natural hair.
Alongside his fellow directors Everett Downing Jr. and Bruce W. Smith; character designer Vashti Harrison and a growing team, they worked nights and weekends to bring the ambitious project to life. In January this year, Hair Love was nominated for an Oscar, making Matthew A. Cherry the second former professional athlete (after Kobe Bryant) to be nominated for an Academy Award. Here, we speak to director Everett Downing Jr. about his involvement in the production process, the impact of social media and more.