Justin Simien, who created the Netflix series “Dear White People,” has turned his attention to cinema and Black women with the horror-comedy “Bad Hair.” 

Set in 1989, or what the director calls “the year of the weave,” the film showed at the Sundance Institute on January 23. It focuses on the hair struggles of TV executive Anna Bludso (Elle Lorraine) whose new, ex-supermodel boss Zora (Vanessa Williams) demands “that her nappy look has got to go,” according to the film’s synopsis. But when Anna weaves up, her weave lashes out with an evil mind of its own.

“As horrifying as the weave techniques sounded to me, the real horror I wanted to express was the feeling that Black women constantly have to choose between themselves and their ambitions,” Simien told Polygon in an interview.

While the filmmaker admitted in the interview that he hasn’t directly experienced the trauma some professional Black women face to earn a living, Simien said he was interested in exploring the systemic roots of the problem:

Coming as you are is never the first option. You have to figure out, “What do they want?” And then, “What parts of myself do I have to cut off to fit in the box of what they want?” That’s the horror that women were communicating to me, and that’s when I got excited about this film, because now we’re talking about a system. We’re not moralizing a woman’s choice, we’re exploring a system where choices are presented, but are they ever really choices? If you’re told, “Get a weave or be fired,” is that a choice?

In addition to Lorraine and Williams, “Bad Hair” stars Laverne Cox, Jay Pharoah, Blair Underwood and Lena Waithe.

To read more of the excerpted interview, click here.