As a child I couldn’t help myself, and I bit my father on the leg. I don’t know why. Even then, I couldn’t explain it. I was old for it. At 6, I drew blood, and my father immediately gave me one, two, three blows on the thigh. We were in front of a window with no drapes, just one sheer layer of hard, acrylic lace. Heat thickened in the throat. It was summer in Mississippi. We were living with my grandmother, and this was my grandmother’s house, where my sister and I slept in the unfinished upstairs. Someone else was in the room, although I’m not sure who; I only remember being watched.

Cinema has a long history of exploring supernatural themes like vampirism and witchcraft. Despite our centuries-long curiosity with the undead, there has been almost no examination of how African folklore and legends fit into these film narratives. With her hypnotic and astonishingly filmed short, Suicide By Sunlight, Sierra Leonean American filmmaker Nikyatu Jusu turns the spotlight on a Black female vampire.

A pediatric nurse, Valentina (portrayed by Natalie Paul) is also a day-walking vampire who is protected from the sun by her melanin. Though she wants to make a difference at work, Valentina’s personal life is in disarray. Devastated by her estrangement from her twin daughters, Valentina struggles every single day to curb her bloodlust. Ahead of her two sold-out screenings at the Sundance Film Festival, Shadow and Act sat down to speak with Jusu about Suicide By Sunlight, how Octavia Butler invigorated her and why she made this film almost on accident.