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'The Fade': Four Barbers, Three Continents, One Film

London barber Faisal Abdu'Allah cuts director Andy Mundy-Castle's hair.
Big Bright Films
London barber Faisal Abdu'Allah cuts director Andy Mundy-Castle's hair.

The Fade — a documentary by London filmmaker Andy Mundy-Castle — follows the lives of four barbers on three continents, all at the top of their game. New Jersey barber Johnny Castellanos also known as 'Hollywood' is a barber to the stars. His client list includes rapper and businessman Jay Z and artists and athletes like Pharrell Williams and Amar'e Stoudemire.

Men travel from miles around by bicycle and foot just to sit in Offori 'Tupac' Mensah's chair for a cut. His Ghanaian shop is modest but always busy.

London barber Faisal Abdu'Allah is a man who wears many hats. He brings his training as a visual artist to his shop. He also dishes out a lot of no-nonsense advice to clients—whether they've asked for it or not.

Shawn Powis takes his shop with him as he travels around Jamaica cutting the hair of notable dancehall artists like Elephant Man and Aidonia.

Although all of the men come from very different walks of life, they all have a sense of deep pride about their profession.

Director Andy Mundy-Castle tells NPR's Michel Martin that "one of the inspirations behind the film was to connect the diaspora." By following four barbers from three continents, he wanted to "look at this trans-Atlantic map that has a very harrowing past and we very rarely hear positive reflections about what's come through there."

Interview Highlights

On the Barbershop's Connection to Africa

[In] Africa there is this tradition of talking and community and society, and a kind of griot storytelling element to African societies. And I think the barbershop is a place that's actually kept that together. It really ties together these different locations, just separated by land and water, but really they are connected by the culture they withhold.

On Why He Choose to Film the 'Shop

I'd rarely seen anything that just documented the black male perspective in a totally sort of positive and unadulterated way. I looked at what spaces in our community offered a vehicle into that world and the barbershop was actually the only place that had for me all the ingredients that would make something that I felt would be an quite an open ticket—an open door for people who weren't part of that community to actually see different lifestyles.

On the Barbershop as a Black Staple

Within the black community there is one business that does stay very sturdy and very watertight and that's the barbershop. Even if you look at female hair products –often here in London—they're owned by Asian Pakistani business men. Whereas the Barbershop is actually fully operational by the black community and it stands alone with the black community.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.