President Joe Biden made history this week by declaring Juneteenth a national holiday. June 19th has long been considered historically significant, as it was on that day in 1865 when former slaves in Galveston, Texas learned from Union soldiers that they were free citizens of the United States following the Confederacy's Civil War surrender two months prior.
On the eve of tomorrow's Emancipation Day celebration, filmmaker Nia DaCosta released a special video message, in which she explains how her new Candyman movies taps into centuries of Black trauma in America (a topic that's been at the forefront of the country's cultural consciousness since George Floyd's death at the hands of police officers last May).
"I was thinking a lot about the duality of the Black experience in America," the writer-director says in the video below. "At once, it's a place of this great hope, which I think is what Juneteenth represents. In one way, it'a celebration of us, of life, of freedom, of possibility. On the other side, it's incredibly difficult and there's a lot of pain. They kind of walk hand-in-hand. I think that's something about this film as well. There's still this bittersweet hope."
Check out the full message:
"Juneteenth is a day of profound weight and power," wrote President Biden in his proclamation. "A day in which we remember the moral stain and terrible toll of slavery on our country — what I’ve long called America’s original sin. A long legacy of systemic racism, inequality, and inhumanity. But it is a day that also reminds us of our incredible capacity to heal, hope, and emerge from our darkest moments with purpose and resolve."
Part reboot and part sequel to the 1992 original, Candyman stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Watchmen), Teyonah Parris (WandaVision), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Doctor Who), and Colman Domingo (Fear the Walking Dead).
The story unfolds in the now-gentrified Chicago neighborhood of Cabrini Green, where the titular legend of the hook-handed specter continues to haunt the area's residents. But as DaCosta says above, Candyman's legacy is more than that of a clear-cut villain: "In the real world we create monsters of men all the time. People are murdered they become either saints or they're vilified."
Universal and DaCosta explored this idea last June in an animated video which depicted the terrible, racially-motivated injustices perpetrated against Daniel Robitaille, the Black man who would become the eponymous horror legend. "Candyman, at the intersection of white violence and black pain, is about unwilling martyrs," DaCosta wrote on Twitter at the time.
Written by DaCosta and producers Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld, Candyman arrives in theaters Friday, Aug. 27 after several pandemic-related delays. With the film ready to roll, DaCosta is setting her sights on the MCU, where she'll direct The Marvels, the sequel to 2019's Captain Marvel.