|Sens Dessus Dessous Cast|
Matamba Kombila is not your average filmmaker. While most directors have the primary focus of creating stories to engage their audience, she takes it a step further with goals to impact her cast through a hair challenge aimed to build true self-esteem. Who in the world does something like that?
Matamba did that.
|Matamba (right) on set|
With a melting heart for society’s outcasts, Matamba was compelled to do a film that showed the everyday life of young deaf individuals in her home country of Gabon (Africa). Being void of the sense of hearing sadly places them on the outskirts of society and they are forced to navigate life mostly amongst themselves, with the feeling of rejection constantly surrounding them.
Through her short film series, Sens Dessus Dessous (Upside Down), Matamba tells a story which reveals that the hearing impaired are no different that anyone else and that they should be seen and regarded with the dignity and respect they deserve, as well as have access to better education, quality job training and employment equality. It is her hope that doors of unity will be opened, that the bridge of isolation will be closed and that the stigma placed on such differences will one day be erased.
Matamba incorporated some interesting regulations into her project that, in and of itself, is a pretty bold story that also needs to be told. All of her talent was required to either wear their hair natural or they had to wear headwraps that reflected the beauty and richness of African culture. Now that’s all good, a beautiful thing indeed, but you know how we black women are about our hair! So, demanding we let go of the styles we believe fit us the most, especially on film where we will be seen by tons of people, could be a problem in the making. But Matamba approached her talented crew with such amazing grace and some really amazing things happened…
See, many women in the region have been struggling with issues of natural hair. No different than here in the good ol’ USA, the “supposed” superiority of western culture had its evil way and the brainwashing tactics intended to redefine the beauty standards from colonization still exist today. Euro-influenced styles and textures are deemed as best, and weaves, wigs and relaxer kits saturate the market.
|Matamba (right) & her sister (left)|
No stranger to the ups and downs of her own hair struggle- as a child, Matamba was proud to don a short trimmed fro and the occasional braids, but as a teen she switched over to perms and color that eventually made her hair fall out- now she wants to encourage young women to overcome the temptation to conform to standards that cause them to permanently abandon and develop disdain for their own unique beauty.
Knowing that her target audience (teens and tweens) are a very captive audience, she vowed to only represent natural hair in her film series. But while actors are accustomed to making drastic changes in appearance for a role, she was actually working with a lot of students. So she kindly schooled them on the dangers of hair processing and long term possibilities of hair loss. More importantly, she pointed them to the true beauty that lay beneath their relaxers, wigs and weaves. Sister Matamba was preaching the truth!
Didn’t take much else for her crew to give real hair a try and they actually loved how they looked! And those who were hesitant to change on the spot, were pleased with the regalness the headwraps brought about. For most, au naturale became a permanent way of life and that’s only the beginning! Hopefully, her film will do the same to change the way we look at natural hair.