Director Nikyatu Jusu and Star Anna Diop Offer Creative Insight
(Washington D.C. – 9.21.22) – In the 2021 article Raped, molested, kicked, abused: domestic helper’s horrible stories behind closed doors in The Standard, domestic workers recounted reallife horrors experienced on the job. Written and directed by Nikyatu Jusu, whose acclaimed short Suicide by Sunlight shines a light on this work force, turns life on the Upper Eastside into art with her debut feature, Nanny.
In Theaters 11/23 | Streaming on Amazon 12/16: NANNY TRAILER (WATCH)
There is a league of domestic workers pushing strollers, feeding picky babies, and shuttling toddlers from music class to yoga all across New York City. These women, disproportionately of color, are indispensable to city families, but are too often invisibilized. Against this backdrop, Jusu sets her new film and draws on personal experiences to help her art accurately imitate life.
“My [mother] is the springboard of everything, she’s the springboard of this idea,” said Jusu. “She did a lot of domestic work growing up, but she is a brilliant woman who had goals and dreams of her own that she had to sacrifice for the ‘American Dream,’” the director continued.
Raising star Anna Diop (“Titans”) plays Aisha, an undocumented nanny working for a privileged couple in New York City. As she prepares for the arrival of the son she left behind in West Africa, a violent presence invades her reality, threatening the American dream she is painstakingly piecing together.
“The entry point [to the American Dream] for a lot of Black and Brown immigrant women and Black American women is domestic labor,” says Diop. “I meditated on my own mother’s life. She, like Aisha, was also an immigrant and became a domestic worker. And she did that for more than 20 years,” said the actor.
A cross-genre film with elements of horror, Nanny concerns itself most primarily with its protagonist (Aisha) but it isthe antagonist, played by Golden Globe Nominee Michelle Monaghan, and the portrayal of whiteness that some audiences may find triggering.
“I’m not interested in depictions of whiteness that feel satirized; I think it’s more compelling and effective to portray whiteness in its banality — its everydayness of microaggressions and cumulative ignorance which become larger systemic issues,” says Jusu. “Michelle humanized Amy in a way that I hope certain audiences can see themselves within.”
Inside the walls of a dark and uninviting loft, in one of New York City’s toniest neighborhoods, we meet Aisha (Diop). An immigrant from Senegal with a masters degree in English, Aisha takes a nannying job caring for a small girl named Rose (Rose Decker) so she can bring her son, Lamine, to the United States. Aisha’s seemingly benevolent and affluent white employers are Amy (Monaghan), a career-driven woman thwarted by more powerful men in her field, and Adam (Morgan Spector), a pseudo progressive photojournalist with a wandering eye who dips in and out of the couple’s home. Nothing is as it seems, and Aisha’s life begins to unravel when her American Dream is punctured by the realities of what it means to be a Black immigrant woman in America.
“There are so many similarities between Aisha and my mother, and I think a lot of what I was able to do with this character was innate, because I’ve known her my whole life, and I love her so much,” says Diop. “I think it’s just that way that we know things that are bigger than us, but are very much a part of us. It’s our lineage and our ancestors.”
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