247newsaroundtheworld– Candyman doesn’t just use this stuff as background, though – it is central to the plot.
A critic disses Anthony by saying, brutally but not without some justification, that artists are “the real pioneers” of gentrification, “descending on disenfranchised neighbourhoods to find cheap rents so they can dick around in their studios without the crushing burden of a day job”.
Anthony fights back, arguing that artists are but pawns in the games of city administrators and developers. “The city cuts off a community and waits for it to die,” he says. “Then they invite developers in and say, ‘Hey, you artists, you young people, white preferably – or only – please come to the hood. It’s cheap. And if you stick it out for a couple of years we’ll bring you a Whole Foods [store]’.”
To his art dealer Anthony says: “I’m thinking about doing something on the projects, and how white supremacy creates these spaces of rampant neglect for communities of colour.”
All of which is to say that while Candyman works as horror – with some superb moments of visual and narrative inventiveness – it has its sights set on a much bigger story: the displacement of African-Americans, from their neighbourhoods, from their streets, from their own mythology (the original Candyman was, of course, set in a black world but told from a white perspective).
This Candyman has a different origin story, and a different role to play. Even the phrase “say my name” carries a different weight now. Though the film was made before George Floyd’s murder, it almost predicts it.
“Obviously we had no idea of what the world would turn into when we were making it, but sadly we knew it would still be relevant,” says Abdul-Mateen. “We knew there would be more hashtags, more names to know, more names to learn and to honour and to remember.”
Who remembers, and how their stories are told, is key to this Candyman. And that applies to the story of the projects themselves.
There’s a way of looking at Cabrini Green that doesn’t reduce it and places like it to an unrelenting hell, the actor says. And he should know: as a child he lived for a time in the projects in New Orleans and Oakland, California.
The projects he remembers are, he says, “a safe space where the families know each other, where people look out for each other, where the kids play games, the adults play games. It’s about community and a sense of survival, and that everybody’s in it together.
“Those are the things that people don’t highlight,” he adds. “It’s the strongest sense of community I’ve ever known in my life.”
Candyman is in cinemas now.
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