Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in Candyman (2021)

Nia DaCosta the First Black Female Director to Reach #1 as Candyman Dominates the Box Office

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Audiences said his name, and Nia DaCosta’s Candyman has made it to the top of the box office this weekend. Deadline has reported that the film has made $20.4M, and with that, the film’s director, DaCosta, becomes the first Black female director to debut a movie in the number one weekend spot at the domestic box office.

In 2021.

Wow.

The film is the second-highest-grossing 3-day domestic weekend opening for a Black female director. The top is, of course, Ava DuVernay and her Disney movie A Wrinkle in Time, which debuted in the No. 2 spot. As a reminder, DuVernay was the first Black female director to helm a $100M+ production from a major Hollywood studio. In 2018.

Candyman is estimated to have been produced on a budget of $25 million, which is very small, and probably is the reason for a lot of the “choices” that I have found to not make the film enjoyable, personally. Still, it also makes the box office even better, because, as IndieWire notes, the weekend gross exceeded “the lowball projection of $15 million by nearly 50 percent.”

I wish I could be surprised by the fact that DaCosta is the first Black woman to break this record, but I am not. With Ava DuVernay making a Best Picture-nominated film and not being nominated for Best Director, and the handful of BIPOC directors to even make movies every year, it is slim pickings. Most who get to break those trends do so attached to a big-name franchise, and their more independent works don’t get the same attention.

Personally, I did not enjoy Candyman. The script, which was written by Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, and DaCosta, feels both empty and overstuffed for its 91-minute runtime. It tries to incorporate a lot of themes concerning Black Lives Matter and police brutality, but it feels forced and cringe rather than thoughtful. It also attempts to reconcile with one of the sins of the original Candyman: the fact that a man who was murdered by a white lynch mob attacks and hunts other Black people.

Still, by the time we get to that aspect of the film, it feels rushed and unearned. The way it ties into the first film isn’t clever. Rather, it’s apparent after the first few minutes.

Social commentary in horror is not new, but it has been treated as some sort of new aspect of the genre, mostly because now it slaps you over the head with its premise than making use of any real subtlety in how monsters can be metaphors. As Candyman attempts to have commentary about the gentrification of Chicago, it also fails to give the Black people of the city any real voice other than our protagonists. It so sticks to its white world, in order to accentuate its themes, that it never gives voices to the victims of gentrification.

All this being said, Candyman was DaCosta’s second film and first horror movie. Having criticism doesn’t mean I’m not excited for her future or that I think she is bad at making movies. Little Woods has already proven that she is an excellent filmmaker.

I just think this was such a commercial film that it didn’t allow her own power to shine through. I am hoping that The Marvels, her next film and sequel to Captain Marvel, will be a return to form.

(via Deadline, image: Universal Pictures)

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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.