Nanny’s Nikyatu Jusu Shares Valuable Critique She’s Received As First-Time Black Director In Horror

Ahead of Nanny being made available to watch at home this week, the horror movie got its start at the Sundance at the top of the year, where it became the first movie of the genre to receive the festival’s prestigious Grand Jury Prize. Throughout 2022, writer/director Nikyatu Jusu has spent the better part of screening her first feature film to audiences all over. What has her arrival to the horror space been like for her? 

When CinemaBlend spoke to Nikyatu Jusu about Nanny, which is now streaming with an Amazon Prime subscription, the filmmaker shared that she’s received a variety of criticism about her movie as she’s shown it to audiences. When I asked her what has been the most valuable audience responses, she said this: 

Even the critique that feels like it's disingenuous, that it doesn't engage genuinely with the work is valuable to me because it's just showing me that I'm essentially on the right path in illuminating characters in a beloved genre that has typically been led by white men. I think I'm getting a knee-jerk reaction, particularly from some white men that are illustrating that I'm on the right path and illuminating new characters and new voices and new ways into this genre.

Within the best horror movies of all time, very few Black horror movies are considered among them. There’ve been an uptick of Black directors contributing to the space in recent years, like Jordan Peele or Nia DaCosta, but it’s still predominantly run by white men, as Jusu points out. The filmmaker has received a mix of positive and negative criticism about Nanny (mostly praise), but as she shared, even the “disingenuous” responses to her movie have reminded her that she’s on the right path. 

Following her memorable debut, which follows a Sengalese-American nanny who is trying to assimilate in New York City as her home calls to her in the form of missing her young son and through hauntings of West African folklore, Jusu caught the attention of Blumhouse Productions, which acquired the film alongside Amazon Studios. 

Jusu is now set to adapt her short film Suicide By Sunlight into a feature film with the help of Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions, via Deadline. The movie is about day-walking Black vampires who are protected from the sun through their melanin. Nanny was made with Titans actress Anna Diop at the forefront. While speaking to Diop in the same interview, we spoke about one particularly memorable line in Nanny: “How do you use your rage? Is it your superpower, or is it your kryptonite?” Diop spoke to the quote, saying this: 

That was a line when I read it. I was like, ‘Let me put this script down for a second and reevaluate some things in my life’. It's just a testament to [Jusu’s] mind. She's brilliant and I found that moment to be really an apex for Aisha's character. It's at that point where she starts to be imbued by these spirits to be something a bit bolder, stronger, less apologetic, fearless version of herself. And, I'm just honored to have been able to portray that. Really, it's a stunning moment and it's a stunning thing as an actor to get to play with.

We’ll have to see if Diop and Jusu work together again following their acclaimed work in Nanny. Following the release of the dramatic and emotional slow-burn film that has introduced Jusu into the genre, check out what upcoming horror movies are on the horizon next here on CinemaBlend. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.