Text by Tracey Francis, Cinenova Working Group

This year, 2020 which is already infamous, has challenged us in more ways than we could have ever expected. Everything has shifted and even if we want to remain still we can’t. So, for Black History Month I have selected from our archive The Haircut (1992) by Veronica Martel.

It is an intelligent film and reminder that artists have been challenging and responding to the inequalities of race, class and gender throughout each decade. Also, to think there were projects such as Adopt-a-student scheme (London Weekend Television) which this student film was supported by. It seems unimaginable today when statements are being made from many well established and creative organisations, that say we must do better in relation to diversity when schemes were made available but then disappeared. Perhaps these schemes were no longer seen as important or adding to ‘British’ culture.

However, in her film Veronica Martel uses a common experience of the sacred father-son and barber shop scenario to create the centerpiece of this film. She brilliantly captures the intimacy and complexities of a relationship between a black couple who are both emotionally at different stages. In The Haircut she digs deep and explores the couples relationship, which is laid bare because of a haircut for all to witness, and shows how small cracks can turn into chasms.    

The Haircut starts with a direct question from the mother who says, ‘ I specifically asked you not to get his haircut…’ and there begins the tension, embedded gender roles, egos and the unresolved issues that have caused the relationship to end. This ugly conversation that turns into a one raised voice against a remaining calm voice argument is a voice over to footage of the intimate relationship of a child being made to feel safe by one of his parents. But then we hear the buzzing of the clippers and the cause of the argument. Then suddenly we hear the young child saying a nursery rhyme. This moment interrupts the tension between the ex-partners to bring the viewer back to the child, who in his own way navigates his parents’ relationship, his place within it and his haircut. 

Veronica Martel brings a rarely explored situation to film and The Haircut definitely has a place in British film history.