Interview: Chicago’s Manual Cinema Reveals How Its Shadow Puppets Became a Defining Feature of the New ‘Candyman’
Having already made box-office history, Nia DaCosta’s Candyman (2021) is deeply rooted in Chicago’s history as it not only critically considers racial violence and the city’s problems with gentrification but also draws in local artists, like the prolific and talented team behind the performance collective Manual Cinema. In a new interview supported by Colossal Members, editor-in-chief Christopher Jobson talks with co-artistic director Drew Dir about the studio’s role in the cult classic horror film, from the production process to using a traditionally lighthearted medium to convey such complex and traumatic stories:
By telling those stories through shadow puppetry, which is about as far from naturalism or realism as you can get, I think that gave (DaCosta) a way to represent that legacy of violence but also filter it through the critical lens of metaphor. The puppets allow the viewer to keep a critical distance (that’s something that puppets historically have been very good at!) and to consider the historical and social forces at play, so the viewer doesn’t lose themself in too much repulsion or fascination with blood and gore.
In the conversation, Dir discusses the unprecedented process of using shadow puppets as a major component of a blockbuster live-action film, experimenting with the technical limits of the medium, and what the studio is working on next.