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Film

Two essential black films selected by Nia DaCosta

@Russellisation

Horror remakes come thick and fast seemingly every year of cinematic history, with the likes of Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre recycled for modern audiences with consistently dismal results. When a classic film is given consideration and a careful modern revamp, however, a great movie can be born, with Nia DaCosta doing just this with her remake of Candyman in 2021. 

Remaining loyal to the original film by Bernard Rose released in 1992, DaCosta also adds her own modern edge to the reimagined film, heightening the racial subtext that is present throughout the old version of the film. Adapting the film with modern horror mastermind Jordan Peele in the producer’s chair, DaCosta told The Guardian: “I love horror and I felt like I had a really good idea about how to make something scary, but also I’m very measured, especially with a story like this, about what is appropriate and what is not appropriate”.

With the feature films Crossing the Line and Candyman already under her belt, DaCosta’s next film will throw her even further into the public eye when The Marvels joins Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in 2023. Starring Brie Larson, Zawe Ashton, Samuel L. Jackson, Seo Jun Park and Teyonah Parris, the brand new film will be a sequel to the 2019 superhero flick Captain Marvel.

Paving a distinct path for herself, Nia DaCosta is quickly becoming one of the most pertinent filmmakers working today, even lending her point of view on the shape of cinema to Time Magazine, as she discusses two essential black films from the history of the medium. 

An essential history of Black filmmaking

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Picking two essential films, DaCosta’s first choice goes to Belly by Hype Williams, a film that DaCosta states is “problematic in many ways, but also visually very stunning,” adding that it was this aspect that “showed me that this was such a different way of looking at Blackness and Black experiences”. Released in 1998, the coming-of-age thriller starred musicians Nas and DMX and follows a pair of childhood friends who turn to street crime only for both teens to question their decision in adolescence. 

Released at a time in the late 1990s when black cinema was beginning to rapidly flourish, the release of Belly joined such films as Eve’s Bayou, Set It Off, What’s Love Got to Do With It? and Waiting to Exhale as the industry began to shift to allow for increased representation. “Beyond them influencing me, I remember a time when there was a lot of great Black films that were being made,” DaCosta recalls, adding, “I remember when I was growing up, it didn’t feel like I was missing that and that time period was really special to me”. 

In addition to Belly, Nia DaCosta also picks out the sports movie Love & Basketball, directed by the black female filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood. “With Love & Basketball being directed by a Black woman, just knowing that it was happening and that it was possible was hugely important to me in retrospect,” the director asserts, noting that the significance of the film being directed by a black woman would have a considerable effect on her later career. 

“Just knowing that it was happening and that it was possible was hugely important to me in retrospect,” DaCosta recognises, looking back at the impact of Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Love & Basketball on her own career. Ambitious and confident in her abilities, DaCosta pursued a career in filmmaking from a young age as a result, recalling “It felt like there was a lot of opportunities. I knew it was possible, and not in a conscious way. I didn’t have to search or seek out Black films or Black filmmakers in the way that you might have had to a few years ago or you might have to now”.

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