Film review: ‘Dọlápọ̀ is Fine’ exploring hair texture discrimination

April 14, 2021

Doyin Ajiboye as Dọlápọ̀: still from ‘Dọlápọ̀ is Fine’

Aya Pfeufer shares her thoughts and feelings after watching Netflix’s short about embracing identity

Longlisted for a BAFTA, ‘Dọlápọ̀ is Fine’ is a short film about a young black woman attending a predominantly white British public school and having to operate in a white environment. The film attracted me as I am interested in the effects of Eurocentric culture and perceptions on African people.

The story follows the journey of Dọlápọ̀ who is keen to get a job in a finance firm. However, she faces some barriers and setbacks along the way. For starters, when she first meets the mentor, Adaeze (Daisy), she is told to change her name to Dolly as it is easier to pronounce than Dọlápọ̀. The mentor herself changed her name to a more European-style name, replacing her African name, which may suggest that she is hiding a part of her identity to fit in.

Daisy also bluntly encourages Dọlápọ̀ to conceal her natural afro hair, as it is not suitable for working in the City. Dọlápọ̀ is taken aback by this, as her white friend Imogen think it brings her character and uniqueness. Imogen appreciates this aspect of Dọlápọ̀.

Dọlápọ̀ adjusts to her new hairstyle even though it brings discomfort at times

The interaction between the Daisy and Dọlápọ̀ is a critical moment in the film, as Dọlápọ̀ gets strongly influenced by her mentor’s words without really questioning where these standards come from or who these standards are according to, i.e. Eurocentric beauty standards.

Dọlápọ̀ decides to cover her afro by wearing a wig. Even her parents think that her new hairstyle looks better, more beautiful, presentable and ‘less like a bush’, suggesting that Dọlápọ̀’s natural hair was messy before. Dọlápọ̀ adjusts to her new hairstyle even though it brings discomfort at times. Imogen doesn’t really understand why Dọlápọ̀ has to change her name and her hair, perhaps because Imogen hasn’t experienced criticism on her appearance by an adult before.

Later, Dọlápọ̀ questions where her wig came from to Daisy, who doesn’t really seem to care herself.

The following day, Dọlápọ̀ presents an assembly to her peers at school. Accidentally, her wig falls off and the students burst out laughing leaving Dọlápọ̀ feeling frustrated and humiliated. After this incident, Dọlápọ̀ reflects on all Daisy’s opinions, and the repercussions wig production has on young girls in India.

Even though only 15 minutes long, ‘Dọlápọ̀ is Fine’ was really good at conveying a strong message throughout

Dọlápọ̀ wakes up and realises the assembly was just a dream and decides not to wear the wig for her job interview. The dream was a subconscious part of Dọlápọ̀’s thoughts, questioning why she was being influenced by others. She repressed a part of her identity: her name and her natural afro hair.

On the day of her interview, Dọlápọ̀ strides with pride letting her afro hair free. She tells the interviewer she would like to be called ‘Dọlápọ̀’. Daisy is in the same room and is shocked that Dọlápọ̀ didn’t listen to her advice. However, the interviewer herself compliments Dọlápọ̀’s hair, which shows that you can’t generalise and put everyone in the same box.

Overall, I really enjoyed the film and re-watched it several times to really appreciate the storyline and depth of the different characters. I found the story easy to follow and I liked the gradually build up to the climax. Even though only 15 minutes long, ‘Dọlápọ̀ is Fine’ was really good at conveying a strong message throughout which I thought was about fully embracing one’s heritage and identity. It’s about being yourself and comfortable in your skin even in a different environment that may not be potentially built for you.

Watch the trailer here: