Dọlápọ̀ Is Fine is an award-winning short film that aims to stimulate discussion around the pressures that surround identity for young Black women, who are often discriminated against for having natural afro hair.
How do you hold on to your celebrated identity when you realise that the environment that you inhabit wasn’t made for you? When girls are still receiving pay-outs for hair discrimination in 2020, this is a story that needs to be told.
The film, which is available to watch on Netflix and HBO, centres on the story of a young Black woman who is soon to leave her British boarding school to enter the working world but faces pressure to change her name and natural hairstyle.
“How do you hold on to your celebrated identity when you realise that the environment that you inhabit wasn’t made for you?”
Leading the team that brought Dọlápọ̀ Is Fine to life is a talented trio of women creatives. Director Ethosheia Hylton, who is currently directing Channel 4’s Ackley Bridge, one of the two screenwriters, actress Joan Iyiola who was recently named as one of Digital Spy’s 30 Black British Stars of Tomorrow and the second screenwriter, composer and co-producer Chibundu Onuzo.
A celebrated author, Chibundu Onuzo (Welcome To Lagos), is also the author of Sunita the short story that Dọlápọ̀ Is Fine is adapted from.
In a quickfire interview, we asked Onuzo to share more about the challenges of wearing your afro hair natural, and the important message behind the film that needs to be heard by everyone in society.
Why is a film like Dolapo Is fine still necessary in 2021?
The response has shown just how necessary the film still is. Sadly, afro hair is still seen as controversial, not just in corporate spaces but in schools too. So many women have messaged me to say the film really resonated with them. I’ve had mothers say they’ve shown it to their daughters and the MP Kate Osamor tweeted that the film ‘Needs to be viewed as a coming-of-age film for Black girls.’ There should be no controversy around our hair. It’s our hair. End of story.
“So many women have messaged me to say the film really resonated with them.”
I saw your amazing show at the Southbank Centre a couple of years ago, where you touched on your British boarding school. Is any of Dolapo’s experiences based on real life for you?
I’ve mostly had a positive experience of having afro hair. There were a couple of comments from relatives saying my hair was ‘rough’ since it wasn’t relaxed but by and large the response was positive. However, I’ve never worked in a bank or law firm and my friends who work in those environments do feel more pressure around how they style their hair. Even those who have afros rarely wear them ‘out’ but instead will have wigs or braids. So, hearing their stories certainly inspired the short story that Dolapo is Fine is based on.
Who should watch the film?
Everybody who has a Netflix subscription in the UK and an HBO subscription in the US.
What would you say to a young Black woman who is unsure about wearing her natural hair to work?
Go for it. Take a spray bottle to moisturise during the day. Go for it!
Would you say it’s easier or more difficult for young Black women to keep their natural identity than 10 years ago?
It’s interesting. I stopped relaxing my hair when I was nineteen. Back then, afro hair amongst my friends was rare, whereas now, relaxed hair is rare. However, even though most Black women I know have afros, they’re mostly hidden under wigs because their afro is too ‘difficult’ to manage. I think learning to take care of our hair in its afro state is the next step for us.
What was your involvement in the film?
I co-wrote the script with Joan Iyiola, I co-produced the film and I also composed some of the music. The music in the forest scene, that was me!
“I think learning to take care of our hair in its afro state is the next step for us.”
How does it feel to have Dolapo Is Fine picked up by Netflix and HBO?
I adored both Spider Kings’s Daughter and Welcome To Lagos. Are you working on any new material?
Yes. My next novel, SANKOFA, will be out in June in the UK, October in the US and the publication date in Nigeria is yet to be confirmed but I believe sometime this year.
Dọlápọ̀ Is Fine is available on Netflix (UK) and HBO in the US.