This is installment #25 of Shadow And Act’s #ShortFilmShoutout series.
Vampirism has been predominantly showcased through the gaze of whiteness, whether it be films like Interview with a Vampire and Twilight or shows like True Blood and The Vampire Diaries. For those desiring to see a story on Black vampires, look no further than the short film Suicide by Sunlight directed by Nikyatu Jusu.
Co-written by Jusu and Robin Shanea Williams, Suicide by Sunlight follows Valentina, a pediatric nurse trying to regain custody of her twin daughters Faith and Hope. All seems simple on the surface, but there’s one problem: Valentina is a day walking vampire whose melanin protects her from the sun. Armed with an insatiable appetite for human blood, Valentina walks the streets of New York City under a cloak of normalcy.
What makes Suicide by Sunlight a rewatchable short is its storytelling. Jusu and Williams do a brilliant job of grounding the extraordinary concept of a Black female vampire protected from the sun by her melanin in a story that is relatable to many. Audiences will come to see how Blackness affords Valentina a biological advantage rarely seen in other vampires. They’ll stay to bear witness to her plight to strengthen her bonds with her daughters. Having delivered an overlooked performance in the indie drama Crown Heights, there’s no question that Natalie Paul is the heart and soul of Suicide by Sunlight.
Shot across New York City in a span of four days, the stunning cinematography was handled by Daisy Zhou, who illuminates every Black character in colors that compliment and fully showcase the richness of their melanin.
In an interview with S&A earlier this year, Jusu revealed that the work of Afrofuturism pioneer Octavia Butler was a major inspiration for Suicide by Sunlight.
“I stumbled across Octavia Butler’s work many years ago, and I discovered Fledgling,” Jusu explained in the interview. “The story was really compelling, but I knew I needed to do more research about melanin because I love when genre melds scientific fact with fantasy. The idea of Black vampires walking in the sun is such a springboard for so many ideas, and I wanted to explore that.”
Premiering to two soldout screenings at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, the short film leaves many viewers craving more when the end credits roll.
In our roundup of filmmakers who should direct Marvel’s upcoming reboot of Blade, Jusu was our top candidate. There’s no question that the Sierra Leonean-American filmmaker is the ideal candidate to direct Mahershala Ali in Marvel’s Blade, another tale about a vampire unaffected by sunlight. In addition, the head honchos at Marvel might be wise to consider Jusu and Williams to write the script as well.
Watch Jusu’s enthralling short in the video below.
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