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22 Beachwood Buzz
n
July 2016
Graduate Brings Wigs Into Focus
With Award-Winning Documentary
By June Scharf
There can be tremendous
strength in subtlety, incredible
power in just a whisper. Maria
Alvarez moves through the
world this way, with a soft spo-
ken, unassuming nature, almost
dream-like with a manner that's
highly settled and contempla-
tive. Her filmmaking perfectly
reflects her disposition, and her
latest project suggests talent
that belies her 18 years.
The 2015 BHS graduate
recently directed, filmed and
edited the award-winning
documentary, "From My Head
To Hers," an exploration of the
hair donation process. It draws
from the experiences of Kenzie
Jackson, a wig recipient who was
born with alopecia (baldness),
and Alvarez, who places herself
in front of the camera as a hair
donor.
The 20-minute film, which has
been featured at many national
and international film festivals,
won three esteemed awards:
Best Direction at the 2015 At-
lanta Independent Film Festival,
Best Overall at the 2016 Cleve-
land Short Sweet Film Fest, and
the 2016 Google Breakthrough
Technology Award at the 59th
San Francisco International Film
Festival.
The film will be released on-
line on July 25 through Alvarez's
YouTube channel, MVA Films,
and on a website belonging to
Wigs For Kids (wigsforkids.org),
a local non-profit that donates
wigs to children in need, free of
charge.
Among the notable traits sur-
rounding Alvarez's filmmaking
style is how much she incorpo-
rates movement, whether it's the
camera in motion or the subjects
in her frame, or both. "It makes
you feel like you're actually in the
scene, watching what's happen-
ing," Alvarez explains. She also
likes to begin a story with a blur-
ry image, creating mystery, then
she slowly brings the picture
into focus, pulling the viewer in
and revealing the circumstances.
As a sophomore at the Uni-
versity of Southern California,
Alvarez is the first in her immi-
grant family to attend college.
A significant part of her visual
education, however, first came
while growing up, through the
example of her parents, both of
whom are artists themselves.
Her mother Wanda, a former
Dutch model, is a make-up artist,
and her father Luis, a Spanish
photographer, is the co-founder
of Aquage, a salon-only hair care
and styling supply manufacturer.
Aquage also supports Wigs for
Kids, and that's how Alvarez was
introduced to its services.
"I learned from my mom how
things can be transformed. And
my dad taught me how to look
for good shots."
Alvarez grew up around photo
shoots, and once she had her
own video camera, she filmed
at every bar/bat mitzvah she
attended while in middle school.
She also created many music vid-
eos, with Kesha, the pop star of
the moment then, providing the
sound track. When she entered
high school, she began shooting
more serious content in the form
of short films, and used music in
more expressive ways to convey
mood and drama.
To create her current film,
Alvarez succeeded in raising
$1,000 through the website In-
diegogo, designed for this type
of crowdfunding. In the video
pitch she posted, she detailed
her interest in filming the hair
donation process from start to
finish, which required a trip to
Bologna, Italy where a manufac-
turing facility is located. What
she captured there is an amazing
Pictured from top:
Maria cuts off 14 inches of her hair for Kenzie's wig.
Each hair is individually inserted in Kenzie's new wig.
Kenzie waits to receive her new wig in Cleveland.
Kenzie wearing her new wig.