Hair Burdens

Inês Pedrosa e Melo

“In a neighbourhood wig shop in San Jose, California, women look for a sense of femininity, identity and belonging in among human hair extensions and synthetic wigs.”

Director’s statement:

By the time that I had the chance to make this film, I had been fascinated by hair for a long time: hair is potentially one of the most overly sexualized physical characteristics in our bodies, without being overtly sexual.
Cultural perceptions on hair and femininity vary and there’s a wealth of beliefs out there, but they often seem to have in common the idea that women’s significance, their power, their fertility and femininity is tied to their hair.
Hair symbolizes something, and that has long been ingrained in women’s minds; losing hair thus becomes, more than a health concern, a perceived loss of femininity, of sense of self.
Hair loss in women feels particularly traumatic due to the fact that it is either very rare, associated to life-threatening illnesses and the treatments they require (cancer being the most obvious one).
Simultaneously, age-induced hair loss, caused by menopause or hormonal imbalances, is something that usually isn’t talked about in the public eye; hair loss due to age is seen almost strictly as a male phenomenon, and women often have to suffer in silence, especially as medicine tends to ignore solutions for female-pattern baldness.
Wigs and hair extensions were a world I had never before dived into.
When I came across this small neighbourhood wigshop in the heart of San Jose, CA, I watched for days as women came in to buy hair for different purposes – either for parties or merely for fun, to make their hair look longer and more appealing or to supplement what they already had, or for finding solutions for their temporary or permanent hair loss.
Under the watchful and helpful eye of the shopkeepers, the women would try on wigs and feel a sense of peace, of acceptance in a world that deems women to always be as beautiful as possible while being as natural as possible, even when such a thing isn’t possible.
In this film, I wanted to attempt to recreate this feeling of a place of worship and peace, where women look and choose their hair and make sense of their identity, amidst a world that does not often allow them that.


Direction, edition and production: Inês Pedrosa e Melo

Sound: Barna Szász
Additional sound: Ellie Wen
Sound mix: Megan Jurek

Documentary, HD, color, 7’45”