‘Candyman’ director, cast discuss themes and Black women in horror at Urbanworld Film Festival

Director Nia DaCosta and actresses Teyonah Parris and Vanessa E. Williams opened up about incorporating the Black experience into the 2021 remake

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The movie Candyman was one of the highly anticipated films of 2020. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the movie release was postponed till 2021 so that fans can be able to enjoy the film in theaters.

Although we have to wait a little longer for this horror film, attendees of the virtual 2020 Urbanworld Film Festival were able to see clips and tune in for a special conversation with the director Nia DaCosta, and actresses Teyonah Parris and Vanessa E. Williams, moderated by journalist Kelley L. Carter

Read More: Kelly Rowland, Lena Waithe and more talk ‘Bad Hair’ film at Urbanworld Film Festival

DaCosta’s rendition of the horror film is a reimagining with a focus on the exploration of Black anguish over wrongful deaths at the hands of the police. The acclaimed director discussed the drafting of the script and this central theme during the panel.

“When we decided this movie is about Candyman–who is Candyman? What does it mean? This movie was always going to be about the trauma/violence and how it affects our community and how we collectively grieve, and how we construct stories around these events,” DaCosta explained. She went on to share that they wanted to shed a different point of view on the film, Candyman, and also apply what Black people face in real life. 

The African American Film Critics Association's 11th Annual AAFCA Awards - Inside
Nia DaCosta speaks at The African American Film Critics Association’s 11th Annual AAFCA Awards at Taglyan Cultural Complex on January 22, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images,)

As actors in the film, both Paris and Williams were excited to be apart of this new shift to showcase that Candyman’s story is tale that applies to more than just the character. 

“You’re really able to say that this is not just one man’s story,” Parris shared as she reflected on the film’s underlying message and the directors use Candyman to expound on the Black experience. “It continues to happen not only to Black men, but Black women as well. And again, its taking that image and story, and the way that Nia and Jordan have been able to turn it on its head and give it a different point of view is important.” 

Williams shared that when she saw the film, she was amazed at how relevant the storyline is to current day issues.

“When I got to see the screener, I was so overcome at how the past is still present with us. It’s haunting, terrifying, and so wrenching. I have two boys but it’s really moving and so appropriate. And how it moves the conversation forward and how we don’t die, we are heroines in our story,” she explained.

Although Parris couldn’t give any spoilers, she did reveal that she survives more than 5 minutes in the film and that in and of itself is unique for Black women in the horror genre. When asked about the role of Black women in the world of horror, director DeCosta shared that Candyman made it point for Black women to have multiple layers–“it’s about the characters being fully flushed out.” 

Both Parris and William’s characters have multiple layers that will keep the audience interested.

 “I think it’s so important because we have to engage with the humanity of Black women, ’cause the stakes are high for us. We have to be seen as people, and art is a huge way that we spread empathy and recognition of humanity,” the Candyland director shared on the importance of showcasing Black women. 

Read More: ‘Candyman’ reboot postponed to 2021, director DaCosta says film is ‘community’ experience

Although we have to wait a little longer for the release, Williams shared these words regarding the main takeaway for fans:

“Come on this journey. Be scared and terrorized, but know, as you said Teyonnah, we still rise. We have been rising and we come from a long history of that.”

The Urbanworld Film Festival officially wrapped on Sept. 27.

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