‘Nanny’ Director and Lead Actress Talk to Nairametrics About the Prime Video Original Horror Movie

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As part of first videoCommitment to producing and hosting diverse content on its platform, partnered with AFIFF for an African premiere of Baby sister, one of his latest African diaspora horror films.

The 11th edition of the African International Film Festival (AFRIFF) opened with the premiere of Nanny on Sunday 6 November, followed by the premiere of wakandan foreverthe sequel to Black Panther. The screening was held at the Filmhouse CinemasLandmark Center, Victoria Island.

In this psychological fable of horror, Aisha (Anna Diop), a woman who recently immigrated from Senegal, is hired to care for the daughter of a wealthy couple (Michelle Monaghan and Morgan Spector) living in New York City.

Haunted by the absence of the young son she left behind, Aisha hopes her new job will give her the chance to bring him to the US, but the family’s volatile home life makes her increasingly uneasy. As her arrival nears, a violent presence begins to invade both her dreams and her reality, threatening the American dream she is painstakingly rebuilding.

Naijaonpoint had the opportunity to speak with writer/director Nikyatu Jusu and lead actress Anna Diop. She enjoys the conversation.

Naijaon Point: Water is a prominent theme in Nanny. It seems to be prominent in immigration stories and art. Was it intentional with you or was it a happy coincidence?

Nikyatu Jusu: Nothing in the movie just happened; it’s all very intentional. mommy wata it is part of the marine kingdom and of that mythology. And the water is highly symbolic. It is birth and rebirth. It’s prevalent in the work of some of our favorite writers for a reason, and it’s an inherent part of the African diaspora. In all media, I think I see the dominance of water and paint in film and music, in novels, and it’s such an inherent part of our history as black people.

Naijaonpoint: There is a scene where Aisha is talking to her friend, Sallay, in a living room. In that scene, were you inspired by your personal life or by someone you know in that position?

Ana Diop: I grew up in Houston. My mother immigrated and I grew up with many Nigerian Americans and many Indian Americans. But my mother worked in a hair salon for a while with an American Nigerian and a Senegalese woman. We find a community within ourselves, no matter where we are. We certainly found a specific Senegalese community in Houston.

But we also had a lot of Nigerian American friends that we grew up with, and they became family in many ways. I would listen to my mom talk to them and share stories about what kind of work they may be doing and how we are surviving and finding our way. And that was something we all had in common, no doubt. And that was the struggle we all shared.

Nikyatu Jusu: I’ve never said this in an interview, but I grew up with braids, my mom and I. Braided hair. My mom became very good friends with the Guinean woman named Sallay. So I named Sallay after this woman from Guinea who was a big part of my youth and she braided my hair out of hers. And as you sit in the room, the women share stories. They speak in their native languages. You collect pieces of women’s stories in these spaces. And Sallay was the breadwinner of the family; she brought her husband here and had four children.

She ended up being sent back to Guinea, and everything fell apart. I don’t even know of an update on this story. It was tragic because she was working so hard here. [in America]. This is the only way when I say here in the United States, she had more agency financially to be able to earn the money that she wanted to earn and build the future that she wanted to build for herself.

So it’s an important thing that I hope the Nigerian audience has picked up on, that we haven’t managed to engage in the way that I like to interact with my audience. But I hope people pick up on the comment I’m making about the ways in which women have more freedom in countries and parts of the world that on the surface seem much more restrictive, but are very liberating for women who have their hopes. and dreams and are very driven.

Ana Diop: That reminds me that my mom always jokes with my dad because the patriarchy is very real and a lot of men get away with a lot of things, and women don’t have the agency or government support to really protect themselves and feel safe. frequently. And every time she’d argue with my dad, she’d say, do you think we’re back home? I have options here.

Naijaon Point: How much of the dialogue in a scene is scripted and how much is improvised?

Ana Diop: That is a testimonial from Nikyatu. She’s a great collaborator, and it’s not always often that you work with a director who allows you to improve and even encourages you.

That scene in particular, I think, had some of our most improvised dialogue. “Nigeria has seen the last of me” was one. I came up with my line about Lamine being a womanizer and falling for Sallay. The script, as you said, was already incredibly strong, but as it was, it gives you space and ideas to color in between.

Naijaonpoint: Movies that are themed about descending into madness, whether experienced or perceived by other characters, often have some aftercare for the actors and even a welfare officer on set. The writers themselves need to take breaks. What was your process in writing it and acting as well?

Nikyatu Jusu: There’s a reason it took so long to get to the draft and the financing, and that’s because, being the writer and director, I’m very close to the material. And it’s very loosely based on parts of my story, my mother’s story, and my lineage, so I had to take breaks from the script and revisit other projects.

And at that point, as you go along, you don’t know if this is the one that’s going to get the funding, because you had other ideas for features before that. This is the first one who received the money.

And as an artist, especially in the early stages of your career, you have to have blind faith that the work you’re doing will pay off. It is difficult, it is not easy. In terms of a feel-good presence on set, I know shows like Lovecraft County have struggled in terms of things that have come up.

And I think it’s becoming more normalized, but it’s also just another title. Sometimes that means another body on set that isn’t necessarily affected. I think we’re navigating capitalism, capitalism is inherently toxic and anti-wellbeing, and especially the way production happens in the West, there are so many other variables besides the themes that you’re navigating in the film itself that contribute to wellbeing. mental. So I think it’s bigger than having someone get paid a nice check for sitting on set every day. It is a structural issue.

Naijaonpoint: I imagined something short at the height of COVID, it must have been difficult. What were certain problems you faced?

Nikyatu Jusu: With production, they test you every other day. So, if a positive case arises in Zone A, which is the zone that has people who are not replaceable, that is the director, the main actors, you are above the line unit, they shut you down. And if it closes at the budget level we were working with, the probability of going back up is not zero. So it’s a precarious situation.

We shot for 27 days and the likelihood of someone going out on the weekends and living their life and coming back on set and having COVID was very high. So there’s an added layer of anxiety and stress because the production is inherently fraught with problems. But this just adds a variable. And budget wise, it’s an additional 30% contingency to your budget. So people are already struggling to get these budgets together. And now you have to worry about PPE and COVID protocol and COVID officers on set. That is a completely separate unit that you are contracting to be compensated to feed. It is expensive.

Naijaonpoint: How did you approach putting yourself in the shoes of someone who is a migrant and do you work that job too?

Ana Diop: Well, I’m an immigrant, I’m familiar with the experience of feeling strange, feeling different, and learning and navigating a new space. So I brought all the emotional truths that I know that I also reflected a lot on my mother at the time she first came to the United States, and how precarious it was, how little of the language we spoke, and how lonely and isolated. what was it. And so I thought a lot about that. And also try to find a way to manifest that in behavior. What we do as actors is translate our emotional life into behavior. And to prove it, I love that it was already written, you know, one of the first scenes in the script, we didn’t get a chance to film, but she always has her headphones on.

Yes. On the subway, while walking, you see that he takes them off and he finds himself with a week. And I’ve seen that that was a way that it’s a behavioral manifestation of the kinds of ways that you, I mean, New Yorkers do this in general, is there so much going on around you? But I found it very helpful because, again, it’s just a physical causation of Ayesha’s loneliness in terms of her longing for harm.

Naijaonpoint: When people make art, they usually aim to tell a narrative, but someone else may connect with it in another way. So I wanted to ask you what you were trying to convey with the money. Why terror? Why a babysitter? Why the topics you think?

Nikyatu Jusu: First of all, I don’t think there’s such a thing as objectivity when you’re navigating humanity. We are all subjective. There is no such thing as an objective human being. Whiteness tends to perpetuate this idea that there is objectivity, especially when it is censored in its gaze, but I disagree. I think horror is a great way to tell the story and folklore is a great way to externalize stories that can come across as pedantic or preachy, or like a public service announcement.

It’s an entertaining way to delve into a protagonist we don’t normally see or can’t normally see centered around the way Anna is portrayed. Aisha’s horror elements, there was a date you had with was it in Chicago, where she, the moderator, said, horror allows people to be brave, it allows the audience to be brave. And just so you know, they’re universalities in, in a horror genre, that no matter how specific the story is, it allows the audience to enter this world where we all understand fear and loss and grievance. And I love the heart that examines those issues.

Naijaonpoint: What can we expect from you two?

Nikyatu Jusu: We both have one foot in our next projects. This has been a dream collaboration and you know, when we talk in interviews, we’re trying to make it work together again. I would love to direct Anna as Storm for Marvel. The most exciting one for me at the moment is the one with the monkey’s paw, which is an expansion of a short film I’ve worked on. I will be working with Jordan Peele and it will be very exciting. He has a really smart team. I’m also in the writing stage of three projects, but nothing is green yet.

ana diop: Well, I’m working with a filmmaker who is very bold, bold and original. And I’m very excited to enter the world that he has created. It’s fun and it’s big for me.

… ‘Nanny’ Director and Lead Actress Talk to Naijaonpoint About the Prime Video Original Horror Movie Read more at… Naijaonpoint.

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