Nia DaCosta Brings Social Justice to the Thriller Genre

As it is now Black History Month, we are taking the opportunity to celebrate some of the incredible Black woman artists that we know and love. Today, we’re starting with the amazing Nia DaCosta! 

Nia is a screenwriter and director best known for her work in the thriller genre. Nia began her career as a production assistant, granting her the opportunity to work with celebrated directors such as Martin Scorsese, Steve McQueen, and Steven Soderbergh.

Having learned from some of the best, when Nia embarked on her own solo projects, they were of extremely high quality from the get-go. The script for Little Woods, which Nia wrote, was chosen for the 2015 Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Labs, a program which helps new writers and directors develop their film ideas. Little Woods began as a short film, and eventually became the first feature-length film that Nia wrote and directed.

“Having learned from some of the best, when Nia embarked on her own solo projects, they were of extremely high quality from the get-go.”

Little Woods (2018) is a crime thriller about two estranged sisters who go to extreme lengths to pay back their mothers’ mortgage when she unexpectedly dies. Set in a small town in North Dakota, the film is thought of as a modern western, where the lawlessness of the town consists not of fights between cowboys but of a lack of access to healthcare and a lack of reproductive rights.

As FF2 Contributor Katusha Jin says, “This film definitely opened my eyes to such towns of America. It was apparent from the start that it was a commentary on healthcare issues and its snowballing effect on the people.” Premiering at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, Little Woods received the esteemed Nora Ephron award for “excellence in storytelling by a female writer or director”. 

Nia’s next film was Candyman, released in 2021. The film is a sequel to the 1992 horror film of the same name, set in the same area of Chicago where the 1992 film is set, but now gentrified. The film is about a painter, Anthony, who accidentally summons the “Candyman”, from the 1992 film, a Black man who was unfairly murdered and seeks revenge. 

In a review of Candyman, FF2 Contributor Stephanie Taylor says, Candyman is an intricate film with many layers. It’s not only a thriller but an eye-opener on society’s ever-present racial tensions. The film is not only sensitive to the plight of Black people in this era, but it’s also a reminder that violence and racism have always happened.” Updating and adding nuance to the commentary of the original Candyman film, Nia’s Candyman is an important contribution to the class of modern progressive horror films. 

Nia is now slated to direct the highly-anticipated The Marvels, the sequel to Captain Marvel (2019). This will be the first Marvel film to be directed by a Black woman. With her talent and incredible achievements thus far, it seems as though Nia is only at the beginning of a long and impressive career. 

© Julia Lasker (2/6/2023) FF2 Media


Read Stephanie Taylor’s review of Candyman here.

Read Katusha Jin’s review of Little Woods here.


Featured photo: Nia DaCosta from

Bottom photo: credit to Neon (USA).

Tags: Black filmmakers, Black History Month, candyman, horror, Little Woods, Nia DaCosta, The Marvels, thrillers

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As an associate for FF2 Media, Julia writes reviews and features for films made by women. She is currently a senior at Barnard College studying Psychology. Outside of FF2, her interests include acting, creative writing, thrift shopping, crafting, and making and eating baked goods. Julia has been at FF2 for almost 4 years, and loves the company and its mission dearly.
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