Chris Rock

Chris Rock

When Chris Rock’s daughter, Lola, came up to him crying and asked, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?” the bewildered comic committed himself to search the ends of the earth and the depths of black culture to find out who had put that question into his little girl's head!

Director Jeff Stilson’s camera followed the funnyman, and the result is "Good Hair", a wonderfully insightful and entertaining, yet remarkably serious, documentary about African-American hair culture that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this month. An exposé of comic proportions that only Chris Rock could pull off, "Good Hair" visits hair salons and styling battles, scientific laboratories, and Indian temples to explore the way black hairstyles impact the activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationships, and self-esteem of black people.

Celebrities such as Ice-T, Kerry Washington, Nia Long, Paul Mooney, Raven Symoné, Maya Angelou, and Reverend Al Sharpton all candidly offer their stories and observations to Rock while he struggles with the task of figuring out how to respond to his daughter’s question.

What he discovers is that black hair is a big business that doesn’t always benefit the black community and little Lola’s question might well be bigger than his ability to convince her that the stuff on top of her head is nowhere near as important as what is inside.

While the flick is "loaded" with Rock's "wisecracking humor," he reportedly takes a grave and honest look at the cultural pressures and identity issues that come with having "black hair." Rock explains: "I have daughters, and I'm really dealing with them and their hair a lot, and my friends have daughters, and we talk about our daughters' hair issues."

In a Reuters Q&A, Rock adds: "I had no idea of the business of hair. I had no idea that it was as organized as Apple or Microsoft or General Motors. I had no idea the chemicals could be scary and damaging."

The film, which is being produced by HBO but may get a theatrical release first, shows "neighborhood salons, businesses dealing in hair-care products and the streets of India, where human hair is a huge export industry for hair weaves." In addition, Rock examines why some African-American women feel they need long, silky, straight hair to fit into white society.

Executive producer Nelson George says: "It's this whole thing about approval. That approval is not simply, 'I want white people to love me.' It's like, 'I need a job. I want to move forward, and if I have a hairstyle that is somewhat intimidating, that's going to stop me from moving forward."