“Dear God, I know it will be better one day. They tell me to trust you, but God, it’s hard.”
Hollywood Beauty Salon is not about hairstyles of the rich and famous. There is no celebrity dishing. For that matter, there are no celebrities. But here are people whose lives and resilience are worthy of our attention.
The documentary by Glenn Holsten is set in a mental health recovery center in the Germantown area of Philadelphia. We meet a few of those who are working through recovery there. We hear diagnoses (paranoid schizophrenia, PTSD, bi-polar, depression, addiction), but those diagnoses are not where the film focuses. Instead the people themselves, their struggles, their hopes for a better life are front and center. Holsten offers them a chance to design the way their stories are told. It could be through writing a short play, through animation, through music, and then helps them find a way to express what is meaningful in their lives.
The community is working to put together a fashion and “Hair Show” based in the salon at the facility, run by a woman known as Hollywood, who has her own troubled past but is now a Recovery Guide and a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner. Through her efforts and the support the recovering people give to each other, they are able to begin to find ways of moving beyond what ever diagnoses or past events have controlled their lives.
Key to the film is the respect given to each of those we meet. The filmmaker is not showing us the bizarre lives that some people live. These are people who have been hurt and in some cases are still hurting. But in Holsten’s film they are people who deserve the dignity that is inherent in us all as beloved children of God. The film offers them a chance to soar (in one case, almost literally) into their dreams. Each of them still has work to do in their recovery, but they are no longer trapped in the darkness that has at times been the defining aspect of their lives.
Photos courtesy Hollywood Beauty Salon