Film Spotlight: “Hair Love”

Featured in the BAICFF 2020 Shorts All Ages: Program 1 is the remarkable film Hair Love. Directors Matthew A. Cherry, Bruce W. Smith, and Everett Downing, Jr. have created a gorgeous, touching story about the lengths to which a father will go to style his daughter’s hair. Top-notch animation and heart-melting storytelling bring the tale vividly to life.

"Hair Love" still image
Hair Love

Our protagonists are loving father Stephen and his determined daughter Zuri. In the past, we learn, Zuri’s mother was the one who tamed her fierce mane, and now Zuri wants to accomplish just such a look — but her mother is unavailable. Zuri lacks the practice to do it on her own, so Stephen steps up to give it a try. Yet Zuri’s hair proves to be a formidable opponent, and Stephen finds that he’s gotten into more than he bargained for.

The film was funded by a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, and the filmmakers have seriously delivered on their promise to create excellent family-friendly entertainment of the highest caliber. In an unusual turn of events for a short film — because it’s just that good! — Hair Love had a proper theatrical release, and screened in theaters before Angry Birds 2.

The film was produced by Sony Pictures Animation, and the production credits include such luminaries as Peter Ramsey (Oscar winner for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), actor-director Jordan Peele (Get Out), and actor Gabourey Sidibe (Precious).

Hair Love is now the winner of Best Animated Short at the 2020 Academy Awards! It demands to be seen on a big screen in the company of an audience — don’t miss this one!

Short Films Explore “The Power of Friendship”

The theme of the 2020 BAICFF, The Power of Kids, is demonstrated by our program’s films in various ways. Taking action to save the environment is one method (like in Microplastic Madness), but other excellent examples of kids showing their inner strength are found in the ways they help each other out in tough situations. Our special shorts program, The Power of Friendship: Kids Stand Up To Bullying, demonstrates that even in the darkest moments, reaching out to others in need of support is an act of kindness within the power of every child.

In The Time Tree, a deaf girl from Renaissance England who is bullied by her family’s servants for being different, travels through time to the present, where she meets two modern girls who help her realize the potential of her intelligence.

The Time Tree Trailer

Happy Birthday shows the story of how an uninvited party guest is treated badly by the other attending children, forcing the birthday girl to make a decision about how she treats people.

"Happy Birthday" still image
Happy Birthday

Furtherance features the tale of a bullied autistic boy who loves superhero comics, and takes inspiration from them order to solve his schoolyard troubles.

And in Gabrielle, a young ballet dance who is given a hard time by a demanding teacher finds an unexpected friend.

Be sure to check out this inspiring program at BAICFF 2020!

Chinese Characters Live in “More Than Just a Square”

One of our BAICFF 2020 shorts programs, The Power of Knowledge, is a celebration of learning. It includes the film More Than Just a Square, which explains some of the pictographic roots of Chinese hanzi, or written characters, and demonstrates how they evolved from specific drawings into the more stylized forms used today. The work reminds us that by understanding the origins and development of these characters, it also serves as a way to memorize their meanings.

More Than Just a Square Trailer

Appropriately, filmmaker Chingyu Yang utilizes animated calligraphy to tell the story, and a person-shaped written character, Hannah, is the viewer’s animated guide.

Chinese calligraphy is not only a writing system, but at its most carefully rendered is also considered an art form, as producing beautiful characters using a traditional writing brush with ink takes both skill and many years of training. Brush painting is central both to Chinese calligraphy and watercolor art. It is little wonder, then, that Chinese animators incorporated these painting techniques into children’s films, making the very first brush-painted animated film in 1960, Little Tadpoles Looking for Their Mother.

Little Tadpoles Looking for Their Mother

The result is a gorgeously-realized film with an aesthetic that is uniquely Chinese. You don’t need to understand the language to appreciate the tale, which follows the well-worn path of many a children’s storybook, as newly-hatched tadpoles embark on a quest to find their mother. Along the way they encounter a variety of underwater creatures whom they wrongly and enthusiastically assume to be their parent, until they finally locate Mama Frog at the end.

With its own animated brush strokes, More Than Just a Square builds on a technique central to the history of Chinese animation, which brings its language and art to life.