Chicago filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry was feeling the love Sunday night at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
Cherry took home the Oscar for best animated short film for “Hair Love,” a six-minute tearjerker about an African American father attempting to do his daughter’s hair for the first time.
In accepting the award alongside co-producer Karen Rupert Toliver, Cherry — who also directed and co-wrote the film — dedicated his statuette to the late Kobe Bryant, saying ‘may all our second acts be as great as his,’ and to his special guest in attendance, DeAndre Arnold, saying, ‘I want to say “Hair Love” was done to normalize black hair.”
Arnold is the Texas high school student suspended for wearing dreadlocks and told he couldn’t attend his graduation ceremony in the spring unless he cut them in accordance with school dress code. Bryant and Glen Keane won the best animated short film Oscar in 2018 for “Dear Basketball.”
Speaking of the film’s genesis, Cherry, a former NFL player and graduate of Loyola Academy in Wilmette and the University of Akron, told the Sun-Times in December: “You have a situation where Mom may have to go into work early and Dad has to get the kids ready. The gender norms that existed back in the day aren’t really the same as they are now.
“I feel like everyone has to step up and get it done. Black fathers have had one of the worst raps in mainstream media as being portrayed as being deadbeats and not being involved.”
“It was important to us to showcase a black father that was young, that had tattoos. I think if you saw someone like him on the street, you would assume that wasn’t a loving father that does his daughter’s hair,” Cherry said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We’re just trying to change the conversation, one project at a time.”
In 2019, “Hair Love” was adapted into a best-selling children’s book written by Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison.