The recent debut of Alyscia Cunningham’s documentary, I Am More Than My Hair, received quite the welcoming at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center during its Oct. 20 premiere. The nearly sold-out event attracted people from all walks of life.
“My audience consisted of people who’ve experienced alopecia in their lives or the lives of their loved ones as well as those who heard about it for the first time. It made for a great conversation,” said Cunningham, the director, producer and cinematographer of the film.
Alopecia is a common autoimmune condition, in which hair follicles, are damaged by a misguided immune system. It usually affects the scalp but can occur on any hair-bearing skin. Various types of cancer treatments may also cause hair loss. In the United States, about 6.8 million people have or will develop alopecia at some point in their lives, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
The screening of the documentary was followed by a Q&A, a signing of Cunningham’s companion photography book and a reception. For Cunningham, making the documentary was a way to shed light on how society far too often obsesses over hair, commonly associating it with status and, of course, beauty. But as the filmmaker’s documentary reveals, women are so much more than their hair — and even lack thereof.
“I am truly honored to have met everyone who took part in the film and premiere. The film provided me with the platform to share their stories, educate my audience and create a shift in the way we see beauty and female hair loss (alopecia),” said Cunningham.
Panel participants included host, April Watts (journalist and radio personality), film participants Jameelah Fernanders, Marguerite Woods, Nicole O’Brien, Wendy Simon, Carrie Safford, Janice Ferebee, Natalie and Gracie Dabrowski, Dr. St. Surin-Lord and the film editor and motionographer Tiffany Lewis.
“When I first thought of the idea of I Am More Than My Hair, I visualized it to be a photography book encompassed with photos accompanied by personal essays of the women who participated,” Cunningham explained. “Never did I imagine it to not only evolve into a film, but I also didn’t consider how life changing it would be for me, the girls and women involved, their families and my audience.”
Cunningham is currently working to get the documentary featured at various film festivals throughout the country. She’s also in the process in getting the film distributed nationwide. She’s currently raising funds to help make the film available to a larger audience. Contributions are welcome and tax-deductible donations can be made via her fiscal sponsor, Docs In Progress, at the following link: www.docsinprogress.org/hair.
To learn more about the filmmaker and her latest project, visit: http://www.alyscia.com/.