Breaking Down the Haunting Images in Nia DaCosta’s Candyman Teaser Trailer
CANDYMAN, at the intersection of white violence and black pain, is about unwilling martyrs. The people they were, the symbols we turn them into, the monsters we are told they must have been. pic.twitter.com/MEwwr8umdI
— Nia DaCosta (@NiaDaCosta) June 17, 2020
Nia DaCosta’s Candyman is the only movie right now I would risk going to theaters for (and I’ll just VOD if that becomes an option). Since her debut, Little Woods, the New York filmmaker has shown herself to have a poignant vision and a well-trained eye. Also, by helming the remake of Candyman (cowritten by Jordan Peele), we get a Black filmmaker’s vision of this story, which this teaser makes even more abundantly clear.
In the tweet along with the video, DaCosta says, “CANDYMAN, at the intersection of white violence and black pain, is about unwilling martyrs. The people they were, the symbols we turn them into, the monsters we are told they must have been.”
The video shows Black men being murdered and abused by the police and white people as they attempt to go about their daily lives. Many of the scenes shown are allusions to historical events.
In the first sequence, we see a Black man being beaten for giving candy to children. While I could not find any specific real-world reference to that, if you look at the history of lynching in America, just being around white children was enough to be considered suspicious—especially if they were girls.
The second is a man moving into a house only to see a white mob outside waiting for him. He is then tied to the back of a pickup truck and lynched. What this might be a reference to is Ossian Sweet and the Murder of James Byrd Jr.
Ossain Sweet was an African-American doctor who moved into 2905 Garland in Detriot, Michigan with his family. Soon after he moved in, a white mob of about 1,000 people gathered around in protest of the Sweet family moving into the formerly all-white neighborhood. (There was another Black person who had lived there before, but he passed enough that they hadn’t noticed.)
Sweet, and his family and friends who were there, armed themselves in case of a conflict. The mob threw rocks, and someone in the house fired out at the mob, killing one man and wounding another. Sweet and ten other Black people were arrested for murder. Thankfully, it ended in a hung jury, and eventually, the charges were dropped.
Sweet eventually died by suicide, following years of financial and emotional strain caused by the events.
James Byrd Jr. was murdered by three white supremacists in Jasper, Texas in 1998. They, like in the image shown in the video, dragged Byrd on the back of a pickup truck 3 miles before decapitating him. The case was the first time that white men were sentenced to death for killing a Black person in Texas. Byrd’s murder was considered the last official lynching on American soil until the murders of James Craig Anderson in 2011 and, most recently, the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery this year, which many consider to be a modern-day lynching.
Next, and most hauntingly, is the clear reference to George Stinney. Stinney was a 14-year-old boy who was accused of murdering two white girls in South Carolina. He was found guilty by an all-white jury after ten minutes of deliberation and was executed by electric chair in June 1944. He is the youngest American to be sentenced to death and executed by electric chair. In 2014, his conviction was posthumously vacated 70 years after his execution. The family of the girls still maintain that Stinney was guilty because the police told them he was.
Finally, the trailer gives us the retelling of the Candyman story. The backstory for the man who would become Candyman in the 1992 movie was that he was a Black painter, who was commissioned to do a painting of a white woman, but when something intimate happened between them (or maybe not in this new version), he was murdered by the white people of the town, his hand chopped off and replaced with a hook—the death of a man, the birth of a myth.
Some people have said that this is too political, but all I have to say is that if you think that, you’ve clearly never seen the Candyman films—unless you think there is something apolitical about the malevolent ghost of a Black man who was wrongfully lynched haunting the area where he once lived, which had been turned into, at the time, an infamous Black housing project?
I cannot wait for the film and anything DaCosta does next. Candyman is scheduled to debut on September 25, 2020.
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