She Dyes Her Hair Pink

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As she documents a young woman dyeing her hair, a filmmaker reflects on the meaning of youth

Viv Li is a Chinese filmmaker based between Beijing and Berlin, who travelled extensively throughout her twenties. During a six-month stay in Lisbon, she met a 21-year-old called Mafalda — who became the subject of this short film. Li was fascinated by Mafalda’s obsession with dyeing her hair poppy colours: yellow, purple, green, blue — and ultimately pink. As she films Mafalda dyeing her hair the colour of candyfloss, Li reflects on her own experiences of coming of age. This film is her attempt to capture the essence of youth: a period of life that is “purposefully wasted, but full-heartedly enjoyed.”

Li “I met Mafalda during my 6 months-stay in Lisbon, at a sushi party my roommate organised. She was 21, young, quirky, fun and full of energy. She told me that she was working at a vegan cafe to save up for her studies in Paris. She had a strong opinion about politics. She was vegan. She loved travelling and backpacking. She had a difficult relationship with her family. But most importantly, she had an obsession with dying her hair into poppy colors. Yellow, purple, green, blue, and soon Pink. This obsession seemed to have no real motivation or importance, but to her, it was something that had to be done. I am not sure why I got so touched by this, but in the next moment I started doing this short film piece with her.

“Born as a single child in the fast growing-era of China, I have had the privilege to travel significantly during my 20s. The liberation of lifestyle and the western wave of female identity flushed into my brain as I witnessed so many different cultures. What I found most interesting and universal is the struggle of young girls’ coming-of-age, which resonates with my own experience despite all the differences. My desire of growing up and being accepted; my lost self amongst all the changes and challenges in China as well as abroad made me wonder, what is the meaning of being young? While getting to know the protagonist of my short film, Mafalda, I recognised that her endeavour of dying her hair pink represents the essence of being young. Maybe pointless, maybe absurd, maybe simply for fun, or even not, youth is the only period of life that time and meaning is irrelevant. Through following her, I came to realise the reason why it is extremely hard to understand young generations. Perhaps in youth, there is no logic, no reasons, but just a flow of life and energy. I couldn't help but reflects on my own self, thus created a dialogue, through her, with the 20-year-old Viv. By observing her, I observe myself, releasing all my emotions that may reach out and echo in the audience, what exactly is youth?”