LOS ANGELES (CN) – A documentary filmmaker has sued comedian Chris Rock for $5 million in Federal Court, claiming his upcoming movie about the politics of black hair is a copycat version of the documentary she made three years ago.
Regina Kimball says she has shown her movie, “My Nappy Roots,” at various film festivals and universities, where she is respected as an “authority on the history and social dynamics of Black hair issues.” Kimball says she finished her movie in early 2006, but has never released it for commercial audiences.
Rock’s movie, “Good Hair,” is scheduled to arrive in theaters on Friday.
Kimball claims “Good Hair” producer Doug Miller asked for a private screening of “My Nappy Roots” in 2007, calling himself Rock’s “assistant” and hiding the fact that Rock was in the middle of working on his own movie on the same subject. Kimball says she agreed, on the condition that Miller sign a nondisclosure agreement.
Kimball says she met Rock at Paramount Studios in Hollywood to show her movie. “Good Hair” writers Chuck Sklar and Lance Crouther attended the screening with Miller and Rock, but Kimball says she didn’t find out about the movie or its makers until later.
One scene in “My Nappy Roots” deals with the hair export business in India that supplies the majority of the hair used for weaves. During that scene, Kimball claims Rock pointed at the screen and yelled, “We have to go to India!”
When the movie was over, Rock admitted that he was working on “a little film” for HBO about black hair and “didn’t know what to do,” the lawsuit says.
Kimball says she was “stunned” and “felt violated” to find out about the alleged pretext for the screening.
After the screening, Kimball claims Miller and Rock refused to sign the nondisclosure agreement.
“Good Hair” copies coverage from “My Nappy Roots” about the “story of the weave,” Kimball says, using similar footage from India, the leading exporter of human hair, to depict the Tonsure ceremony at India’s Temple Tirumala Tirupati. Both movies also include coverage of the controversy over who invented Jheri Curl, the toxicity of the chemicals used in hair relaxing treatments, and celebrity interviews, the lawsuit states.
Kimball and Rock both claim they were inspired to make their movies by their daughters’ questions about their own hair.
Reginald Brown is representing Regina Kimball and her company, Virgin Moon Entertainment, in her lawsuit against Rock, Chris Rock Enterprises, HBO Films, Roadside Attractions and Liddell Entertainment in Los Angeles Federal Court.