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In Juneteenth Video, Candyman Director Nia DaCosta Explores the Power of Horror & “Truth of Pain”

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and director Nia DaCosta on the set of Candyman.

As we count down the days to the release of Nia DaCosta’s Candyman, the director and cowriter (along with Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld) has released a new video discussing the film, Juneteenth, and the connections between the two.

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Especially after the last year-plus of worldwide protests and demonstrations for racial justice, DaCosta says she’s been thinking a lot about the duality of the Black experience in America.

“At once, it’s a place of this great hope, which I think is what Juneteenth represents in one way—it’s a celebration of us, of life of freedom, of possibility,” DaCosta explains. “But on the other side, it’s incredibly difficult and there’s a lot of pain, and they kind of walk hand in hand.”

“And I think that’s something about this film as well, there’s still this sort of bittersweet hope,” she continues. Da Costa started working on this film in the winter of 2019, and since then, so much has changed, from the pandemic to the “amazing show of political and cultural emotional force” that we’ve seen across the country and beyond.

“And throughout the making of the film,” she says, “the thing I always came back to was the truth of the pain that was at the center of the story of Candyman. In the real world, we create monsters of men all the time. People are murdered, they become either saints or they are vilified. Throughout the last year and a half, it was always coming back to that truth. Horror is a really effective tool when it comes to telling stories about things that impact us on a social level. The very function of it is to make you uncomfortable.”

Watch the video, which also includes clips from the film and some behind-the-scenes footage, here:

Here’s the official synopsis of the modern incarnation of the horror classic:

For as long as residents can remember, the housing projects of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green neighborhood were terrorized by a word-of-mouth ghost story about a supernatural killer with a hook for a hand, easily summoned by those daring to repeat his name five times into a mirror. In present day, a decade after the last of the Cabrini towers were torn down, visual artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II; HBO’s Watchmen, Us) and his partner, gallery director Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris; If Beale Street Could Talk, The Photograph), move into a luxury loft condo in Cabrini, now gentrified beyond recognition and inhabited by upwardly mobile millennials.

With Anthony’s painting career on the brink of stalling, a chance encounter with a Cabrini-Green old-timer (Colman Domingo; HBO’s Euphoria, Assassination Nation) exposes Anthony to the tragically horrific nature of the true story behind Candyman. Anxious to maintain his status in the Chicago art world, Anthony begins to explore these macabre details in his studio as fresh grist for paintings, unknowingly opening a door to a complex past that unravels his own sanity and unleashes a terrifying wave of violence that puts him on a collision course with destiny.

After being postponed last year, Candyman is set to hit theaters on August 27.

(image: Parrish Lewis/Universal Pictures and MGM Pictures)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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