Message from Montie

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Black hair filmmaker Regina Campbell has a hearing to sue comedian Chris Rock for 'Good Hair'

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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After seeing Chris Rock's film, "Good Hair" today, I found out that there is a hearing set for October 19, 2009 with Federal District Judge Dale S. Fischer about his film being released. Regina Campbell, the plaintiff, produced a film called "My Nappy Roots" and stated that Chris Rock did not tell her he was producing a film about black hair too before he saw her movie screening. Chris Rock apparently admitted to seeing the film, but there are mixed statements about whether Chris Rock told Regina Campbell about his HBO deal for a black hair film before or after the film.

 

Initially when I heard this news, I was wondering "What's the big deal?" You cannot copyright an idea. I worked with the Library of Congress for two years and read contracts repeatedly to make sure my previous employer's educational textbooks were properly registered. I've seen documentaries on black hair and the perm industry from films like Aron Ranen's black hair care documentary, in which he talked about how black hair care manufacturer Kizure was having a tough time selling its products because of the Asian market taking over, but I never heard about a lawsuit against Aron Ranen. (Ironically, even when I google "black hair manufacturers," I see a bunch of Chinese products.) Aron Ranen isn't trying to sue Chris Rock, although Chris Rock also touched on Koreans and Chinese people were discriminating against black hair care manufacturers.  

So I checked out a trailer of "My Nappy Roots" today to see if the movies are similar, and they actually do have more similarities than I thought. Whereas Aron Ranen's film is a documentary without any major celebrities, "My Nappy Roots" has well-known celebrities like Patti LaBelle, Vivica A. Fox and Malcolm Jamal-Warner. The trailer also explores weave, natural hair, dreadlocks and the phobias about nappy hair. In Chris Rock's film, "Good Hair," there are plenty of celebrities too, but the segments on natural hair and dreadlocks were removed and the audience never really got to the root of the issues with why coarse hair isn't as accepted by the mainstream or even the black female community.

 

Do I think Regina Campbell should've taken Chris Rock to court? No. I honestly think that because of Chris Rock's fame, he was going to get a large audience no matter what. He brought humor that I don't see in this trailer and doubt is in the movie. And considering Chris Rock did not explore the beauty of natural hair, he actually made some audience members hungry for a deeper explanation. This was my only problem with "Good Hair"; I wanted the film to discuss celebrating natural hair and the reason so many black women chose to go against the norm. I'd definitely go see "My Nappy Roots" just so I could see the missing piece from "Good Hair." I feel like Chris Rock helped Regina Campbell, not hurt her.

 

And what's more important? Who made the film first or making black women rethink or celebrate the culture of black hair? And how would a $5 million copyright infringement lawsuit somehow make it all better? When people make a film, it should be about the heart of the issue, not the money. The amount alone just seems too suspect to me, and I don't think Regina Campbell would've even bothered to sue Aron Ranen (or any other lesser known filmmaker) had they seen her film instead of Chris Rock. What do you think?

 

 

Additional Links:

"Movie Review: Chris Rock's 'Good Hair' takes on serious black hair care topics"

"The controversy of permed hair, are black women selling out?"

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11 Comments

Kyra Kyles said:

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Hey Montie: I see your point, but if someone spends this kind of time and effort in making a film, you cannot blame them from exhausting every possibility if they feel they have been wronged. Chris Rock's film is definitely more funny than anything, but the elements do sound similar. I plan to rent "My Nappy Roots," not only to see the difference, but to get a more straightforward perspective on this issue. Hopefully, others being more aware of the other movie will influence them to get the education along with the entertainment. Good, and interesting post.

Message from Montie said:

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Hey Kyra,
I was ready to protest "My Nappy Roots" and say the two had nothing in common when I first saw the beginning of the trailer, but when I got good into it, I went "Oh, okay, now I understand why she's mad." But I just feel like $5 million is a bit much. Even if the movie had released in the movie theaters worldwide, I don't think she'd have made the money Chris Rock is from his name alone. I don't see Oprah inviting Regina Campbell to her show or any magazines writing about it. Chris Rock's name helped him with this film. But I do think Regina Campbell has something here. I just don't want money to get in the way of a good film. Thanks for visiting!

sjwalter1974 said:

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Well while I can understand where she is coming from (you know that little thing called artistic creativity)I can also understand the pointlessness of the suit. If you work hard to get something started hoping to get out there it would be very upsetting to see someone come out with a movie about the same topic that you know will reach more viewers. Think about it. If you're at work and you discuss somethinng with a co-worker that would be beneficial to your overall job performance and that same person mentioned your suggestion to the boss in a meeting without giving you any recognition you would probably be quite upset. I think that if Chris did have this in the works at the time she allegedly showed him the script he should have at least had the respect to say "hey you know I'm already working on something like this. Do you want to be a part of it? I like your ideas." He's a professional that has been in the business far to long to not see something like this coming. BUUUUUTTTTT... If she is lying then I agree he should fight. The truth about the conversation can only come out in court. $5Mil is way to much but let's see if he settles.

Message from Montie said:

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Sjwalter1974,
I do see what you and Kyra are saying. But from an economical standpoint, I'm leaning towards Chris Rock. Here's why. Because Chris Rock is who he is, he was immediately embraced for making this film. I didn't see one advertisement or interview on the front page of a Chicago paper about "My Nappy Roots." I didn't see previews for the documentary or even ads, but I saw Chris Rock's "Good Hair" everywhere. I'm sure Regina Campbell wouldn't want to be known as somebody who is biting off of Chris Rock's movie, especially when she apparently created hers first, but seeing an idea does not mean you stole somebody's product. I don't have a law degree, but I don't think that's how copyright infringement works, plus again, there are elements to her movie (from the trailer I saw) that don't make it into Chris Rock's movie. I'd really like to see her movie in full so I can give my full opinion on it, but I still stand on the fact that you can't copyright an idea. Hollywood is forever recycling film plots. If I asked you to name a film about a teacher who saved inner city students, you could say "Dangerous Minds" as quickly as you'd say "Lean On Me" or "Coach Carter" or even "Freedom Writers." But when one film has a weak area, it's perfect timing for an interested audience to check out a film with more depth too.

Arrow87th said:

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Hmmmm...Idunno...The fact is, Chris requested to see Regina Kimbell's documentary "My Nappy Roots". His decision to go to India came from viewing her film. It certainly didn't come from asking singers and actors "how they like their hair did", as most don't know about the Indian-Hair connection. This connection is a cornerstone of 'Good Hair". Some people try to make a distinction of "copyright's or copycat's", as if to say, if what Mr. Rock did was legal, than it's ok. I don't think it's ok to view someone's film, book, song, etc. , trivialize it, and then say , I would have had that idea anyway since our films are about the same subject. Ridiculous!!! Mr. Rock needs to pay and credit this woman, period... Peace

Message from Montie said:

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Who said he trivialized the film? As far as the legal issues, she's taking it to court for copyright infringement so it does come down to legal issues. But again, you cannot copyright an idea. If that's the case, Hollywood would completely shut down because plots are repeated over and over again. And if she was really passionate about other black hair documentaries, why only come after Chris Rock? I think you're dumbing down the audience a little with the Indian hair weave deal. I have never worn weave and even I knew that the connection was in India. There have been enough "I got Indian in my family" jokes (both directed to Native Americans and Indians from India) for me to have not pieced that together.

Arrow87th said:

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Hay...You replied...Hello! But to answer your question, Mr. Rock trivialized her film in his response to the lawsuit. Here's a link... http://www.local12.com/entertainment/story/Chris-Rock-blasts-documentary-lawsuit/9Upy7XD8L0KlK-H6xr55lw.cspx It's not so much, about the idea or plot being similar, and more about Ms. Kimbell doing the "heavy lifting" of research and movie direction. Then Mr. Rock comes along and puts a funny spin on it. I think she's passionate about her movie and why would she sue other black hair film's, like the 'fore mentioned Aron Ranen, when Chris is the one who did the stealing. By his own admission, the only thing he had at the time of viewing Ms. Kimbell's film was an idea and a movie deal. No script, no footage...nothing. From the celeb interviews, to India ,to the title, "Good Hair" is heavily influenced by "Nappy Roots". And as for as customer's knowing the origin of the hair they buy, I think you're given people to much credit. Haha, and I've heard those Indian hair jokes too. Mr. Rock won the suit, so obviously what he did was legal. But it would be as if a world renowned author contacted you to dialogue about one of your previous works. Then changes the title, turns into a comedy, and makes $. The question should not be would Ms. Kimbell be suing if Rock wasn't rich, but should be would Mr. Rock have did this to famous documentarians like Micheal Moore or Ken Burns. I don't think so, but that's my opinion...Thanx...Peace!!!

Message from Montie said:

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Hey Arrow87th,
I always reply. I like to read the opinions of those who take time out of their busy days to read my own content. I don't take that for granted because you could completely ignore me. The only people I don't reply to are Internet thugs. I have no use for them.

But anyway, I read the link you sent me (thanks for sending it). I don't think he ridiculed the film. I think he stated his case. It was a smart decision to check out the film to make sure it wasn't a copycat. Nobody wants to look at a film and go, "Haven't I seen this already?" And he made it plain that he WAS going to see it for that reason. From that link, it sounds like he contacted HER. To me, that's research.

As far as Aron Ranen, I believe he's white. However, I don't think Chris Rock stole anything. The theme was similar, but it's no different than any other movie. I honestly think she can use that as leverage to sell her movie even more (ex. "Chris Rock touched on the humorous side of Black hair, now I'm here to tell the real. Are sistas proud of their roots? Their nappy roots? Check out my movie "My Nappy Roots." Hell, I'd write the press release for her. I think her film is going to be so tight just from the trailer, but the thing is I'd have never heard of this film if not for Chris Rock. I think he helped her, not hurt her.

As for the Indian hair explanation, you may be right because some of the celebs looked like they didn't have a clue. I just shook my head. That was one of my biggest reasons for never wearing weave; I don't want to wear hair somebody else had on their head. I don't care how many times they washed it. To me, it's like wearing somebody's underwear. Ugh.

And as for the author example, I've read MANY MANY books from authors who make me think I'm having a deja vu moment, especially with the current popular African-American erotica fiction era. I stopped reading AA fiction altogether because books started looking like carbon copies of each other. When I wrote my second novel, "Round Trip," about a guy spreading HIV/AIDS on campus, I thought that was so unique and a few months later, I met another author via Blog Talk Radio talking about a similar plot. But I wasn't mad. I was happy he was spreading HIV/AIDS awareness. Even if he'd have told me he read my book, same deal. The bigger issue was getting the word out about HIV/AIDs. In nonfiction, the system may be the same (interviews, content, etc.) but in fiction, there's a perk of character development. That's the only difference I see between books and movies.

But at the end of the day, I don't believe I'd know Regina Campbell by name if not for Chris Rock. I think they should just agree to disagree and get on their hustle promoting their products.

toniahawk said:

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You are missing one key fact in your assesment of Regina Campbells claim. Chris Rock's assistant called her invited her to come to Paramount Studios so that Chris could view the Documentary in June of 2007. Per her suit, she was asked under the impression that they wanted to help her with her film. It was only after the meeting that it was disclosed that Chris was making a documentary. She requested an NDA before the meeting and she has an email from Chris' team stating that they would sign the NDA. Chris Rock when from saying, I dont know if I saw the Doc before or after my contract for Good Hair to now saying it was after he was contracted. This is out on the web and avaiable for all to see as well as the lawsuit itself. I believe she has a strong case. IMHO

HinterlandGazette said:

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Montie -- I don't think Ms. Campbell would have bothered to sue had this not been someone famous, like Chris Rock. I haven't seen her documentary, so I won't judge her at this time. It does seem suspect however that the lawsuit came at this time.

Great article.

Janet Shan

Message from Montie said:

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Janet,
Thanks for commenting. I'm really looking forward to seeing her documentary THANKS to seeing Chris Rock's. I really enjoyed seeing Aron Ranen's too. I don't know whose documentary was first between Aron Ranen's and Regina Campbell's, but I'm wondering if hers came after his, would she feel it's right for Aron Ranen to sue her (or vice versa). Yes, Chris Rock went to see her movie and maybe it wasn't a good idea at the time knowing he had the HBO deal in the works. I see why artists say they stop listening to the radio when they create an album, just so they don't subconsciously copycat. However, again, there's a HUGE piece missing from Chris Rock's film that would make Regina Campbell's film that much better, and I just don't think she'd have made the money he made with her film.

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