Film

Film: 'The Fade - Its More than Just A Haircut'

Review of black film 'The Fade' by Andy Mundy Castle. Explores the artistry of barbering across the African diaspora, because It's more than just a haircut.


Offori Upac’ Mensah owns a small barbershop in Accra which allows him to have a decent life and save for his daughter’s education while he teaches boxing classes in his spare time and dreams of becoming a singer. Johnny ‘Cakes’ Castellanos, who everybody calls “Hollywood”, is a workaholic, taking helicopters and private jets around the US to meet the needs of his VIPs while keeping his fashion boutique in New Jersey rolling with an ambitious staff.  Shawn Powis is a different kind of itinerant barber, forced by the chaotic but insouciant pace of Jamaica to have his bag of tools ever ready to rush off to cut and shave his customers, many of whom belong to the music community.  Faisal Abdu’Allah, a recognized artist from London’s African Diaspora scene, opened his own shop after finishing art school as a space “where anything can happen,” and it has become the inspiration and monetary base for his creative work.

[embed width="620"][/embed]

A Brit of African descent, Andy Mundy-Castle is the director of The Fade, a documentary that follows the lives of these four barbers around the world over the course of seven days. The independent film and television producer, who holds a Masters in Documentary from the Goldsmith College of the University of London, is presenting this brand new documentary, his first for the big screen, in NYC this February. His previous experience in animation can be seen in the opening images:  a razor slicing the distances separating Accra & Kingston and Englewood & London, the sites where the four protagonists ply their trade, which marks the commonalities in their cultural heritage as the credits appear superimposed over afro picks, combs and scissors.

The audience follows the lives of these young men, rendered in a vibrant, quick-cut editing style, discovering numerous similarities in their work, particularly in the intimacy established between barber and client, as well as broad disparities in their backgrounds and individual aspirations. The film is structured around six chapters, each composed of four vignettes starting in Ghana, moving to New Jersey and Jamaica, and finishing in England.  These chapters could have been named as follows: presentation, philosophy of life, passions and dreams, outside the shop, important clients, and miscellanea. They are followed by a short epilogue featuring the four men staring into the waters of the Atlantic, rich with memories of hope and despair that bring together all people of African roots, each from his respective shore.

Throughout the film, the viewer is party to countless clever asides from clients, coworkers, and the barbers themselves, in a confidential space from which family and friends are excluded.  The ability to listen and share, supported by great manual and creative skills, have made the best barber shops a kind of sacred space for ages, where the customer may express himself freely and enjoy the sympathetic responses of a chorus of listeners and of the barber himself in his role as confidante and counselor; this is an aspect of the profession that cannot be altered by new technologies or trendy products.

Barbershops have also long served as a focal point for the transmission of stories and news. In the words of noted rapper and producer Pharrell Williams, the barbershop is the “hood Twitter.” It is not idle talk when Faisal Abdu’Allah affirms, on being invited to the CAAM gallery in the Canary Islands to present his own retrospective: “my shop is a living museum. There is the place where I find my stories both as an artist and a barber.” The barbershop is also important as a democratic space where even the rich and famous are brought down to the level of the common man. As an African proverb states:  “Even the high and noble bow before the barber”.

Patronizing preconceptions may still relegate such realms as fashion design and hair styling to a second tier of artistic activity — thankfully, though, this has begun to change — but the processes of making an art object and of giving a perfect haircut share a great deal in common, and it's clear that for the protagonists of the film, their profession has a much deeper meaning than a mere job. Offori Upac’ Mensah, thinking from Ghana about his compatriots, says: “if I would meet other barbers around the world, I would tell them to keep the spirit of barbering alive.” In the coda to the movie’s final scene, a New Jersey customer looks directly into the camera and offers the following closing words:  “If you have an ability, use it to the fullest, and keep going.”  There is no other secret to mastery, and very few professions in which human beings commit greater trust. Who else would you let lay a razor against your neck?

Follow the film's progress on Facebook and @thefadefilm and catch it when you can.

Music
Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

B3nchMarQ and the Art of Making Something From Nothing

B3nchMarQ's EP consists of great songs that don't require much from the listener—but it bangs.

There's nothing groundbreaking about South African rap duo B3nchMarQ's debut release ASPEN EP. But one indisputable fact is that it bangs.

Keep reading... Show less
Music
Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Nasty C and French Montana Hit the Club In the Video for ‘Allow’

Watch the video to Nasty C and French Montana's new collaboration.

South African rapper Nasty C just released the visuals to "Allow," his collaboration with French Montana. The song is featured on Bad Hair Extensions, the re-release of Bad Hair, the Durban-born rapper's debut album.

Keep reading... Show less
Video
Courtesy of Jojo Abot.

Let Jojo Abot's New Afrofuturistic Video Hypnotize You

The Ghanaian artist releases the new video for "Nye VeVe SeSe," an entirely iPhone-recorded track.

Jojo Abot is rounding out a strong year which has seen her tour South Africa, release the NGIWUNKULUNKULU EP and work with institutions like the New Museum, Red Bull Sound Select and MoMA on her art and performances.

Jojo is now sharing her latest music video for "Nye VeVe SeSe," a song featured on her iPhone-only production project, Diary Of A Traveler.

"Nye Veve Sese is an invitation to let go of the burden of pain and suffering that keeps us from becoming our best and greatest selves," a statement from Jojo's team reads. "Asking the question of why pain is pleasurable to both the one in pain and the source of the pain. Often time the two being one and the same."

Watch her new "meditative piece," which was shot in Bedstuy, Brooklyn, below.

Jojo Abot will be playing her final US show of the year in New York City alongside Oshun on October 26 at Nublu 151. Grab your tickets here.

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.