A young black woman, ready to leave boarding school, struggles with pressures to make changes to her identity for a job in the City.
Dọlápọ̀’s hair, a resplendent afro, is the most striking thing about her appearance, and something she takes obvious pride in. Her school-friends, as we come to learn, are fascinated by and appreciative of it too. This was represented in the relationship between Dọlápọ̀ (Doyin Ajiboye) and her best friend Imogen (Katie Friedli Walton).
Their close bond is genuine, although certain early scenes suffered from stagey dialogue and awkward delivery. Some more interaction with the other pupils, and perhaps some of the teachers as well, would have helped show her acceptance and integration within the school’s diverse but closed community.
The crux of the film’s central issue, and one of the more powerful and effective moments, is a scene in which she meets a careers advisor (Joan Iyiola) who encourages Dọlápọ̀ to hide her afro and change her name to Dolly, in order to succeed in the professional world. A black woman herself, she is immediately antagonising, confronting Dọlápọ̀ with the harsh realities of how she will be perceived in a predominately white workplace, judged on her physical appearance and given African name.
This toughness also suggests her own bitterness at having herself chosen to conform in order to get where she is, ultimately sacrificing a part of her own identity in exchange for acceptance. By making her character relatable, having had to negotiate the same system, it hints that the tough love approach is forged equally between the blurred lines of realism and racism. By not showing sympathy in the way we might expect, their’s is perhaps a more honest relationship, one which at least shows respect in treating Dọlápọ̀ as an adult, not a schoolgirl.
Dọlápọ̀’s decision is far from an easy one to make. There are underlying factors at work. It symbolises a crossroads, a landmark which questions one’s character, confidence and self-belief.
It touches not just on the issue of race but also of conformity to white, conventional standards of female beauty. The film is an enjoyable watch with a satisfying payoff which offers hope and triumph over adversity. It’s a journey which tests her mettle, but in the end Dọlápọ̀ is more than just fine, she is empowered.
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