Baldwin Beauty (Sundance)

By Thembi Banks | Comedy
A stylist goes to a client's home and finds girls pregaming for a party.

Launched by “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig, Powderkeg: Fuse is a talent incubator program that highlights emerging female film directors. Omeleto is proud to share its diverse slate of shorts for this year — as part of its inaugural Fuse Directing Program — which are inspired by the vibrant communities of Los Angeles and united by a comedic sensibility that can range from bawdy to caustic to offbeat, but is always emotionally grounded.

Farrah is new to Los Angeles and looking to get her footing, both socially and professionally, in her new city. She’s on her own and a bit of a “fish out of water,” navigating a complicated place where surfaces are not always what they seem.

But then she uses an app called “Get Glam” to find new customers for her hairstyling business. Her first appointment is for a house full of girls looking to be styled for a party. When she arrives, the party has already started… but that gives Farrah the opportunity to prove herself, and the fresh new start in life she’s been looking for.

Writer-director Thembi Banks’s engaging, winning short is a part slice-of-life, part observational comedy about taking risks and managing tough transitions in life, and coming out on the other side with a new feeling of confidence and empowerment. It’s also about all the strange and unique ways we can find community and friendship, even in the oddest of circumstances (and apps.)

Much of the film’s strength begins with its foundation of smart, strongly observed writing, often finding humor in the way vivid personalities and characters intersect against one another. Played with an almost elegant understatement by lead actor Raven Goodwin, Farrah is apprehensive and a little retiring as she approaches her appointment, and at first the new environment brings out her shyness. But she begins to bloom when she embraces the moment and focuses on her talents and skills.

Shot with a combination of warmth and down-to-earth texture that captures its unique setting in L.A., the story captures a part of Los Angeles not often put on film. Baldwin Hills is a historically Black neighborhood in the city, with its own rich history and sense of place, and it forms the perfect backdrop for one Black woman’s reinvention. The storytelling also pulls in the role that hair plays for Black women and the way that communities can form around beauty and self-care, both of one’s self and one another. Hair is a key talent for Farrah, and it is also the way she begins to find her way in this ad-hoc party — and what may be her first community, and victory, in the city.

A selection at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, “Baldwin Beauty” celebrates Black communities in Los Angeles, but it’s also about what it means to strike out on your own and find yourself — and in taking those risks, wrack up the small victories that add up to a beautiful, satisfying and hard-won life.

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