Hair Wolf Tackles Cultural Appropriation With Frights and Farce
BY OLIVIA ARMSTRONG
Writer-director Mariama Diallo and her boyfriend were walking through Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood when she came up with the idea for Hair Wolf, a horror-comedy about the epidemic of cultural appropriation in the age of social media. “I saw a box braid lying on the ground and said, ‘braid,’” she explained. “My boyfriend misheard me and thought I said, ‘brain.’ The rest kind of fell into place.”
Her 12-minute short — a finalist at 2018’s ABFF Short Film Competition — follows black hair-salon workers Cami (Random Acts of Flyness’ Kara Young), Eve (Taliah Webster) and Janice (Trae Harris), who discover they’re being hunted by an atypical monster: an Instagram-obsessed white woman sucking the lifeblood out of black culture.
Diallo, who wanted to avoid crowdfunding her latest project (“It’s like having another job.”), bankrolled Hair Wolf on her own and shot it in just three evenings. “We were racing to beat the sun,” she said with a laugh. “Like vampires.” Not having to answer to donors on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo also gave Diallo more creative freedom as both an artist and a horror film fan.
“Horror provided a great framework to get into the deeper layers of the story,” she said. “There’s visual and conceptual language in every genre but horror is recognized by fans and non-fans.” Those who appreciate thoughtful homages will recognize nods to Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder, John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
In addition to horror, the short melds absurdist comedy with sociopolitical commentary. With lines like, “Your hair is so beautiful. Can I touch it?” and “Omigod, I’m so tan. Like as black as you,” Hair Wolf shines a light on an uncomfortable reality via high-minded camp. “If you see a zombie or a vampire, you associate it as a monster that has symbolic layers of non-human desires — particularly the draining of somebody’s life,” Diallo posited. “I thought this could fit into Hair Wolf’s theme of cultural appropriation.”
While Diallo enjoys when her film triggers laughs, she didn’t want her message to get lost in the comedic moments, especially when it came to main character, Cami. “It was important for me to have the characters experience this on a level beyond just the ridiculous,” she said. “We see how this situation can affect this character’s self-esteem and how she perceives the world.”
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