Awarded with Sundance 2022’s Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic category, Sierra Leonean-American writer-director Nikyatu Jusu’s Nanny is a chilling account of Black immigrant mothers’ sociopolitical trauma and legal entrapment. 

Powered by Senegalese-American actor Anna Diop’s enchanting screen presence, this stylized thriller is an exemplar of symbolic framing and lighting that are effective in bringing out interpersonal and intersectional dynamics. Jusu’s personal knowledge of West African mythology is also pivotal to the film, which refers to folklore creatures as metaphors of persecutions and self-redemptions.

Diop’s Aisha is the film’s strong-willed, no-bullshit heroine trying to navigate an underpaid nanny job in a well-off white family in New York. She routinely puts up with the wife Amy (Michelle Monaghan)’s nitpicking and micro-aggressions, and the husband Adam (Morgan Spector)’s festishizaition and sexual harassment, so she can make enough money to bring her son here from Senegal. Aisha is a multifaceted representation of immigrants who go through hell for their loved ones, while putting themselves in vulnerable positions to be exploited by the perverted and privileged.

Mastering poetic montages and affecting sound designs, Jusu juxtaposes Aisha’s two worlds interweaving nightmares and hallucinations that manifest her deepest insecurities and fears – her motherhood and womanhood clashing with racial violence. Elevated by cinematographer Rina Yang’s ethereal rendering of psychological horrors, the film evokes a haunting sensation of emotionality and spirituality in moments of tragedy and healing. Setting against the darkness of America’s white oppression, the Black romance between Aisha and Malik (Sinqua Walls) is also accentuated by Jusu and Yang’s audiovisuals in the mood of love.

Beneath the film’s more apparent racial and gender dialogues, there underlies a lament that Aisha and Amy – both doing what is best for their son and daughter – have no choice but to turn against each other. From their involuntary antagonisation derives Jusu’s indictment of America’s misogyny that ironically does not exempt any race.



CAST: Anna Diop, Michelle Monaghan, Sinqua Walls

DIRECTOR: Nikyatu Jusu

WRITER: Nikyatu Jusu

SYNOPSIS: An undocumented Senegalese immigrant works as a nanny of a wealthy white couple. Horrors quickly ensue.