Natural Hair is not a fad. It's a birthright. Find your freedom.
Interview with Writer/Director Dr. Gillian Scott-Ward
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Thank you! When I started production of this film, I was in my early 30s working full-time as a clinical psychologist in NYC at Barnard College, the women's college of Columbia University. With my patients I noticed we were talking a lot about issues of identity and authenticity and how challenging it is for young people, but specifically for young people of color to live authentically in the face of discrimination. There are absolutely challenges to being "fully yourself" within a cultural that is caught between encouraging individualism and uniqueness while also discouraging people from falling too far outside the Eurocentric norms of beauty etc. One day it hit me, if I continue to chemically relax my hair, a process I didn't even like, I was exposing myself to toxic chemicals monthly that I could avoid, and I was subscribing to a standard of beauty that was not natural for me. I wanted to make a change not only for myself but also for the young people around me. I wanted to be brave and authentic even if I faced push back because that's an important value for me.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Documentaries are an incredibly powerful medium for exposing yourself to worlds and issues that are often unknown. You should watch this film because, as many viewers have already expressed, it gives audiences a complex and global understanding of ways in race, identity and hair are all related. The film give a really compassionate view point on issues that impact African descendants' sense of self and the often unknown barriers society places on our ability to simply exist. How many people know that young children around the world are kicked out of school for simply wearing their hair the way it naturally grows? How many people realize that choosing to not chemically relax your hair or wear wigs and weaves that can be extremely damaging can impact a black person's ability to be employed? This movie really gives a unique and shocking look at the global policing of Black bodies in ways that have not been explored before in this way.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
In Back to Natural, our cast share really intimate and profound personal stories from their lives. We wove these stories together in a way that the audiences really understands how certain global realities (anti-blackness, colonization, slavery) impact people on an individual, family, community and economic level. I think it's done so seamlessly though that people leave with such a complex understanding of an issue that is communicated in an entertaining and moving way.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
My original conceptualization of the documentary was not from a global perspective. I was traveling for personal reasons in Europe, Africa and the Caribbean and I realized that what we have is NOT an American issue. It's a global issue and people around the world that have experiences to share that help deepen our understanding of what is going on. It also expands our sense of what community is. That was a really powerful realization for me that I think is successfully communicated in the film
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Feedback has been extremely affirming for me. I accomplished what I set out to do; help viewers feel seen, connected and part of a strong global community and also deepen the audience's understanding and empathy about an issue that is, generally speaking, quite secretive and covert.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
My favorite part about traveling with this film is seeing how people's perspectives and responses are really shaped by where they grew up/lived. While there are universal aspects of a person's relationship with hair and identity, there are also really nuanced experiences based on social and physical location. So it both brings people together and helps them feel seen and heard while allowing them to also share something unique about their experiences. It really helps to create an intimacy and connection with people no matter where they are from.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I hope that we will be able to continue to get the world out about this film. Ultimately my work is about healing and connection so the more people know about it, the better. Back to Natural wants to be a part of the global healing community.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We were looking to spread our message wide and far. Specifically right now we hope to connect with distributors, buyers, journalists and film festival directors. Our work comes from a really unique perspective because I have a doctorate in clinical psychology. I think that adds something special to the work we were able to create because first and foremost this piece is about mending individual, historical, and societal wounds.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
The natural hair movement is already a global movement. I hope that this film continues to push this movement and also bring in communities that don't know this is happening because healing requires participation of everyone, not just those who are the most directly impacted.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
The key question is, should people be required to change their core sense of being in order to be allowed to participate in society.
Would you like to add anything else?
Our graphic editor, Jacopo Francia, is an Italian born creative. His response to the film was really powerful to me. I saw as he processed the film that he was amazed that all these things were happening right before his eyes that he didn't realize was happening in terms of race. How could key aspect of a Black person's experience could be so hidden? I think most people can't fathom how far from our natural state of being that some Black people feel required to go to be successful in America and a lot of places in the world. So especially for people who feel unaffected by issues around Natural Hair for Black people, I encourage you to watch.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Right now I am developing a companion healing based workshop to accompany this film to bring to schools, colleges, and community organizations to deepen the impact of Back to Natural. We call it, "Back to Natural: A Healing Tour".
Interview: February 2018
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTIAQ+, scifi, horror, world cinema. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Back to Natural
Natural Hair is not a fad. It's a birthright. Find your freedom.
Length: 69 minutes
Director: Dr. Gillian Scott-Ward
Producer: Executive Producer, Marquis Smalls. Producers: Dr. Gillian Scott-Ward & Dominic Ward
Writer: Dr. Gillian Scott-Ward
About the writer, director and producer:
Director/Writer/Producer, Dr. Gillian Scott-Ward:
Born in Brooklyn, New York to immigrant parents from the West Indies, Gillian is a first-time filmmaker and a clinical psychologist in New York City.
Executive Producer, Marquis Smalls
Marquis is a Screenwriter-Director- Producer offering a fresh perspective on African-American culture, stories and characters. His latest film, Hating Obama, a documentary is now on Starz and Amazon Prime.
Producer, Dominic Ward:
Dominic has spent over 15 years in finance. A film lover, Dom's most recent work in the industry was as a PA on the 2011 indie "Happythankyoumoreplease." This premiered at the 26th Sundance Film Festival where it won the Audience Award and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize
Key cast: Dr. Salamishah Tillet, Dr. Carl Hart, Natasha Gaspard , Jenell B. Stewart , Dr. Noliwe Rooks, Lurie Daniel Favor Esq., Brian Favors, Okema T. Moore
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): buyers, distributers, film festival directors, journalists
Social media handles: Instagram: BackToNaturalDoc
Funders: This film was largely self-funded. We also have amazing donors who contributed via our indiegogo campaign
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month?
Pan African Film Festival: Los Angeles
Thursday, Feb 15th @ 1:15pm
Saturday, February 17th@ 12pm
Sunday, February 18th @ 9:55pm