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Mariana Rondón • Director

Bad Hair: a film about how you look at each other


- The Venezuelan director Mariana Rondón talks about Bad Hair, which triumphed at San Sebastian.

Mariana Rondón • Director

Mariana Rondón’s San Sebastian winner Bad Hair [+see also:
film review
interview: Mariana Rondón
film profile
tells the story of Junior, a 9 year-old with "bad hair". He wants to have it straightened for his yearbook picture, like a fashionable pop singer. This puts him at odds with his mother Marta. The more Junior tries to look sharp and make his mother love him, the more she rejects him, until he is cornered, face to face with a painful decision. Cineuropa met with Venezuelan director Mariana Rondón during the Amazonas Film Festival in Manaus, Brazil.

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Cineuropa: Can you explain the meaning of “bad hair”? Why is it a problem?
Mariana Rondón
: In Venezuela, “bad hair” is the black race hair. What goes on in Venezuela is that we are very mixed, and it’s very usual to have this bad hair. It’s something that started being racist, but as we’re so mixed and there are so many races together, although it’s still something not very positive, it became less racist. It’s a characteristic of our society; everyone has a feature that comes from that mixture.

Junior’s attempts to develop a personality and identity are repeatedly frustrated by his mother.
Yes, it’s a tough relationship, but what’s also important about it is that it’s between real people, not good people or bad people. It’s a mother facing a lot of difficulties to survive who’s teaching her son to survive with the same lacks and needs as her. She isn’t capable to teach him something better because that’s all she knows. In that sense, I think that’s what can be painful about the relationship. It’s not that she doesn’t want or try; it’s just that she doesn’t have the means, the tools to help him with. That’s what’s essential. 

What about the lack of communication?
I think that even if you managed to communicate better, it wouldn’t change anything, because you don’t know how to be better, how to want more. I always step up for this character, because she’s going through an extreme situation.

Junior’s grandmother is more supportive, but soon the kid realizes that her attitudes hide more selfish intentions...
I think all of us take what we want for ourselves. And the grandmother is fighting for her space and her own needs.

Why did you decide to make this film, about this topic?
I was very interested in approaching a topic like intolerance, the lack of respect for the other’s needs, for what the other wants his or her life to be. I felt that I could approach it from many ways with this film. To me it’s essentially a film about the look; about how you look at each other, and how the other people look at you. But what I care about within these looks is the open space between them and the film viewer. I’m not telling the viewer to believe; I’m proposing that he finds his look; whether he’s fond of one or another. I don’t want to answer that, which I think is something each of us takes home to ourselves.

You talk about intolerance, and also about homosexuality.
Yes, but to me intolerance has a much wider meaning. It’s that fear the mother has, not because her son may be homosexual, but because his son may not be heterosexual. To me it belongs to a much bigger fear and a much bigger intolerance. This is like the cherry on top, but to be intolerant with the neighbour, that’s a whole big thing to me.

Intolerance is universal, but was your intention to focus on the problems in your country?
Venezuela is a very polarized country, which is something that is created after not being able to respect the opinions and the wishes of your neighbour. And to respect is not to demand that everyone hold your opinions, but to allow yours to coexist alongside others’. They shouldn’t be eliminated; you don’t have to get rid of the other in order to exist. You just need to be respected, and to respect the other. That’s all.

(Translated from Italian)

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