British Columbia

Vancouver artist plumbs personal experience for Oscar-nominated short film

Vancouver-based artist Pearl Low is celebrating her team's Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short Film for Hair Love.

Pearl Low was a story artist on Hair Love, nominated for Best Animated Short Film at the 2020 Academy Awards

Hair Love is the story of an African-American father who must do his daughter's hair for the first time. (Sony Pictures)

A Vancouver artist is celebrating after Hair Love, a film she worked on, scored an Oscar nomination Monday for Best Animated Short Film. 

Illustrator Pearl Low worked as a story artist on the film, which depicts a Black father who is tasked with doing his daughter's hair for the first time. 

Low says the idea for the film came about when director Matthew Cherry started seeing videos of dads doing their daughters' hair going viral. 

"He soon realized that, you know, it was actually something more impactful than just a dad doing his daughter's hair," Low told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's On The Coast.

"It's about Black fathers being present, being involved with their children and doing their daughters' hair, and because [the videos] were going viral, he was like, 'I think the people want to see more representation.'"

Watch the short film Hair Love here:

Cherry launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the film and was overwhelmed with donations, raising more than $300,000. The film was later picked up and distributed by Sony Pictures Animation. 

Low, who is Afro-Chinese, got involved in the film because of a self-published comic she created called Tension about her own struggles with curly hair. 

"I grew up with a single mother, my Chinese mother, and she also had no idea how to handle my hair," Low said. 

Illustrator Pearl Low (L) and an excerpt from her comic, Tension. (Pearl Low/Twitter)

A friend who had read the comic and worked at Netflix passed it on to one of Hair Love's co-directors, Everett Downing. 

"He read my comic and he was like, 'You know what? This is something that she needs to work on. We need to bring her on the team. The themes in this comic are so much like the themes in the the short film we need to bring her on,' and so that's how I came on," Low said. 

Although Monday's Oscar nominations created a stir for only nominating one actor of colour and no female directors —snubbing anticipated nominees like Greta Gerwig, Jennifer Lopez, Eddie Murphy, and films like The Farewell — Low says a nomination for Hair Love is a win. 

"People really crave this kind of storytelling and it benefits everybody," she said. 

"I really feel like a lot of people might not have considered, you know, a story about a black family relatable to the masses, but you watch it and you could find yourself in it."

The 92nd Academy Awards take place Feb. 9 in Los Angeles.

Listen to the interview with story artist Pearl Low here:

With files from On The Coast