Awards Profile 2019: Justin Simien’s ‘Bad Hair’

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Welcome to the 2019 Awards Profile series, where we talk about films coming to a theater near you in the coming year (at least at this time of writing). The series analyzes the films and their awards season potential, most notably for the Academy Awards, based on the talents attached, filmmakers involved, and story and source material.  Monday through Friday until mid-May, AwardsCircuit will bring you a new and exciting project and discuss its chances for success. If you have a suggestion for a movie we should cover, include it in the comments section below. If you miss a film covered, click on the tag or category for “Awards Profile.”

FILM: “Bad Hair”

DISTRIBUTOR: TBD
DIRECTOR: Justin Simien
PRODUCERS: Julia Lebedev, Angel Lopez, Alex G. Scott, and Eddie Vaisman
WRITER(S): Justin Simien
CAST: Vanessa Williams, Laverne Cox, Lena Waithe, Michelle Hurd, MC Lyte, Judith Scott, Steve Zissis, Moses Storm, Yaani King Mondschein and Ashley Blaine Featherson

SYNOPSISThe story follows a young woman from Compton in L.A. who wants to be a VJ in the late 80s/early 90s but doesn’t have the right look. She makes a Faustian bargain with the new network head and ends up with a weave in her head that may or may not have a mind of its own. The idea was inspired by the discovery of Asian hair-possession horror movies, like the 2005 South Korean film The Wig. To make this translate in the U.S., Simien decided to anchor it in the Black, female experience.

SCHEDULED RELEASE: To be announced, 2019

POTENTIAL HIGHLIGHTS

Justin Simien is best known as the writer and director of “Dear White People.” That film tackled topics of race and identity and went on to become an underground hit. So much so that Netflix adapted it into a television series by the same name. Simien looks to build upon that success with another film about race and identity–this time in the horror-comedy genre.

Though “Dear White People” failed to break into the Oscar conversation in a serious way in 2014, Simien’s profile is much higher now. “Bad Hair” will be much more anticipated than “Dear White People,” which owes its success largely to the slow build of word of mouth.

The film will also benefit from having high profile names like Vanessa Williams, Laverne Cox and Lena Waithe attached. Both Cox and Waithe are recent Emmy winners and Williams has been nominated for numerous awards over the years. The names attached will be enough to make sure that the marketing makes a splash. Whether the film is strong enough to put any of these ladies in the awards discussion remains an open question. 

POTENTIAL CHALLENGES:

Given that this is just Simien’s second film, he doesn’t exactly have a track record yet. The horror-comedy sub-genre also hasn’t had much success at the Academy Awards. Both hurdles make it unlikely the film will become a major Oscar contender.

Get Out,” Jordan Peele’s directorial debut that became a bona fide phenomenon would be the absolute best case scenario for this with regard to awards contention. It too was a horror film with comedic elements dealing with racial identity. It was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture and won Best Original Screenplay. If “Bad Hair” turns out to be a brilliant satire landing at just the right moment, Best Original Screenplay seems like the place it would be most likely to be highlighted.

Overall, there is precious little out there about the film beyond a few short interviews from when it was first announced. Perhaps as we get more details, it will become clearer whether this has a prayer at becoming a serious awards player. For now, it will remain one to watch, but probably not take too seriously.

POTENTIAL AWARD CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Original Screenplay (Justin Simien)
  • Makeup and Hairstyling (To be announced)

POTENTIAL KEY NOTICES FROM OTHER GROUPS:

  • Best Adapted Screenplay (WGA)

Are you excited or skeptical about Justin Simien’s “Bad Hair?” Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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