Hair and Now by Matthew Kay

A barbershop in Hackney proves to be a sanctuary for young people where they reflect on their life and future whilst getting the latest trim.

This film is Rated by the BBC Fresh team. Rated films are those the team or guest reviewers enjoyed, and feel are worth highlighting because of their production techniques. Reviews may contain spoilers.

Sharon Hepburn, BBC Fresh producer, says:

Hair and Now was the first film submitted to Fresh and I rated it straight away. Now, having seen all of the 58 short films of the first round, I still rate it.

It’s often difficult to cover the subject areas that are addressed by Hair and Now without using commentary. For instance, how do you introduce your topic? How do you move from one subject area to another? Matthew achieves this by the way he has chosen to construct the film. The very first sentence is about how some young people can’t afford a haircut and from there everything else seems to flow. He has set up his topic using only what his interviewee says. To get this to work there has to be a clear focus, a plan and a really good ear for listening during interviews, they are essential and often underrated filmmaking skills.

The other thing that really makes this film work is the choice of location. Matthew has used the setting and action of the barbershop to full effect. It creates a place for his interviewees to be, they are in a casual setting where it seems natural for them to chat and express opinions. The action of haircutting provides cut-away sequences and the area around the shop provides shots for the music montages, which are the ideal interludes breaking up the sections of his film. The music itself is also a big feature, it acts as another voice, adding to and enriching the story.

This gives the film a sense of seamlessness and lack of structure; it’s as if we just happened upon these people on this day, in this setting. It is a testament to Matthew’s directing skills that he has created this effect when, in fact, it’s a focused and well-planned film.

Hair and Now gives voice to the views of young adults who are not necessarily well represented by mainstream media and offers insights into their lives and the issues that affect them. This is one film, one story but it is the narrative of many. It’s about identity, about Britishness and the British experience and this is something that BBC Three as a channel is keen to explore. So Hair and Now really meets the Fresh brief and speaks to the youth audience and that is why it is one of my rated films.

Release date:


11 minutes

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