The best horror movies over the years have created our own folklore encompassing our worst fears – Michael Myers’ is pure, unstoppable evil or Freddy Krueger as our nightmares. For first-time feature filmmaker, Nikyatu Jusu, it was important to bring to life the mythical forces of West African folktales to tell the story of Nanny. As Anna Diop’s Senegalese-American nanny finds herself caught up with a new family and the distance between her own child, traditional stories find new spaces in the horror genre.
Nikyatu Jusu, who won the Grand Jury Prize at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival early this year for Nanny, making it the first horror movie to receive the honor, spoke to CinemaBlend about infusing West African folklore into her movie. In her words:
Anna Diop, who has risen to prominence with her role in Titans as Starfire, plays an immigrant nanny who is living in New York City and has left a piece of herself at home as she spends so much time without her son. As Aisha continues to struggle to assimilate in the United States, figures of her own culture begin to haunt her, including Mami Wata, a water spirit and “Anansi” the spider, which are both depicted throughout Nanny.
Jusu was inspired to write Nanny with her own mother in mind, who was an immigrant woman who did domestic work when she was growing up. The first-time feature director had support from Sundance Labs, but was also able to accomplish a lot of practical effects on a small budget to portray her own visions of West African folklore. Jusu continued:
In an Instagram post, Nikyatu Jusu shared some behind-the-scenes looks at the making of Nanny, particularly with some breathtaking water filmography. Take a look:
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Following Nanny’s praise at Sundance, the movie received the attention and support from Blumhouse and Amazon Studios. Jason Blum shared in a press release that viewing the movie “moved” him because as a father he could “relate to the fear and terror around not being with your children.” Jusu’s debut shows a strong voice as more incredible horror movies from Black filmmakers are shaking the genre up, especially thanks to Jordan Peele forwarding things with his movies.
YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.
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