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“African Spirituality Has a History of Being Demonized in Cinema”: Nikyatu Jusu on Nanny

NannyNanny

West African mythology is an integral facet of Nikyatu Jusu’s filmmaking. Whether in her directorial stint on an episode of The CW’s Two Sentence Horror Stories or the melanated day-walking vampires in her short film (and 2019 festival circuit hit) Suicide by Sunlight, the Sierra Leonean-American writer/director has made it her mission to introduce American audiences to the folklore of her heritage. If she also manages to revamp tired (and overly Eurocentric) monster tropes while she’s at it, then so be it. It’s fitting, then, that Jusu’s feature debut Nanny manages to do a little bit of both.  When a young Senegalese woman named Aisha (Anna Diop) is hired to take care of a wealthy Manhattan family’s six-year-old daughter Rose (Rose…  Read more

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“I Would Love for Horror to Be My Home, But I Want to Be Bi-Coastal”: Mariama Diallo on Master

Regina Hall in Master by Mariama Diallo.Regina Hall in Master by Mariama Diallo.

The racist roots of Ivy League academia are molded into an intangible boogeywoman in writer/director Mariama Diallo’s feature debut Master. While the film takes place on the fictional campus of Ancaster—located in the greater Boston area—much of the film’s insights on matters of race and gender stem from Diallo’s own undergraduate experience at Yale. In fact, the titular term “master” refers to what would more commonly be known as “head of house,” or the senior member of a college within a wider university system. If this term still seems convoluted and archaic, it’s likely because it’s largely a British custom, with only four universities in the U.S. having adopted the term. With the exception of Rice University in Texas, the…  Read more

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Back to One, Episode 187: Renate Reinsve

Norwegian actor Renate Reinsve’s performance in her first leading role, in Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person In The World, earned her the best actress award at Cannes and is slowly taking the world by storm. She embodies Julie with a levity and depth that is both grounded in a relatable reality and poetically expresses the beauty and heartbreak of life at the same time. To say it’s the kind of work that changes people’s lives is not an exaggeration. In this half hour, we take the microscope to her performance and lay out the factors at play in its creation. Reinsve talks about her obsession with character motivation that she developed at an early age, almost as a form of…  Read more

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Sundance 2022 Critic’s Notebook: Fire of Love, Every Day in Kaimukī and Shorts

Fire of Love

Derrida’s “archival turn” of the ’90s has officially taken over mainstream documentary filmmaking—a trend that has been covered in general interest thinkpieces in Indiewire as well as in academic scholarship, and one that’s proven more lucrative than I could have ever imagined. For the second year in a row, Sundance opened its U.S. Documentary competition selections with a blockbuster archival film, and National Geographic Documentary Films won the bidding frenzy for Sara Dosa’s Fire of Love with a “mid-seven figures” purchase almost a year after reports that 2021 Sundance “Day One” film Summer of Soul sold for north of $12 million. Several critical and box office nonfiction hits of the last few years have also been archival, from Raoul Peck’s…  Read more

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“LDS Folk Are the Same Whether They’re North Americans or Finns”: Tania Anderson on Her Sundance-Debuting Doc The Mission

A young man with blond hair in a blue suit showing a picture of Jesus Christ to a a couple with their backs to the camera

World premiering January 24th in the World Cinema Documentary Competition at this year’s Sundance, The Mission marks the feature-length doc debut of Helsinki-based writer and journalist Tania Anderson, who, on a cold winter day back in 2016, happened to pass by a pair of English-speaking young men in familiar suits discussing the perils of temptation. Which prompted the open-minded British-Swiss-American to wonder not, “What the heck are Mormon missionaries doing in Finland?” (my first question), but “What makes them tick?” And from this combination of curiosity and accidental eavesdropping the idea for The Mission was born. To find out more about the film, which follows four American LDS teens from home, to the Church's Provo, Utah training center, to a staunchly secular nation half a…  Read more

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“Who Does Visibility Serve and Who Does it Harm?”: Chase Joynt and Morgan M. Page on Their Sundance Doc Framing Agnes

Zackary Drucker as “Agnes." Photo Credit: Ava Benjamin Shorr

Framing Agnes, the title of Chase Joynt’s (No Ordinary Man) latest genre-queering film - world premiering in the Next section at this year’s Sundance - refers to a controversial trans woman who, in the 1960s, participated in a groundbreaking gender health research study at UCLA. It also refers to the fact that, historically, trans people have never been allowed to leave the frame. Or, paradoxically, enter the frame (if not a blond beauty like Agnes or Christine Jorgensen). So how does Joynt place Agnes in his cinematic frame without framing her? The answer is with an abundance of artistic ingenuity and a little help from his friends. (Who happen to be deep-thinking trans stars , including Zackary Drucker, who plays…  Read more

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