Writer, director, and actor Craig Mapp has seemingly spent most of his life at the intersections of crossroads he did not choose for himself, and yet he acknowledges that each one of those meeting places has shaped the man he’s become.
The son of a black father and indigenous mother, Mapp spent his formative years figuring out his place in the world. He recalls fondly playing with his tribal siblings on a reservation and trying to glean from his father’s family what it also meant to be black.
Despite obvious challenges when these two worlds collided upon occasion, however, he still recalls his growing up as a positive experience, and one that considerably prepared him for the pluralism of the world around him.
When the time came to choose his path in life, he attended the New York Film Academy in Burbank, California where he received his BFA in film, and has spent his time since working his way up through the ranks, taking the jobs that would better prepare him to be the storyteller and filmmaker he wants to be.
The long-time horror fan had a lot to say when we sat down to discuss the direction his life has taken in recent years, and the movies that have personally influenced and affected him as a filmmaker and a fan.
“I like the thrill of being scared,” he told me. “It’s such a rush for me. I especially love those slow-burning psychological horror films like Hereditary. I love how you didn’t know when the scares were coming. That slower pace just sets my skin crawling.”
Mapp went on to list films like Suspiria and The Shining among his list of favorites, though he says, it bothers him that the genre isn’t given a lot of respect in other circles. He points out that Jordan Peele winning the Academy Award for Get Out felt like a victory for more than just the filmmaker in that moment.
“I couldn’t help but feel this was opening doors and not just for the horror genre but also for black people to create within the horror genre,” he explained. “He’s not just creating gory stuff either. He’s creating classics. There are so many layers there.”
It’s those same layers that Mapp is looking to bring to the new feature film he’s writing at the moment which digs into the mythology of the Algonquin tribe of Quebec. It’s a chance for him to tell a story placed firmly in the world of his mother’s people and the idea excites him while also adding a layer of responsibility.
“It’s going to touch on colonization and settlement by the French,” he said. “A lot of raping and pillaging went on during that time and my main character is a woman who came from that. She’s half French and half Algonquin and she’s trying to find her place in that world. Native culture is an anomaly on film, especially from the point of view of the natives, and I want to bring that into the light.”
In the story, many of the men in her tribe are wounded or unable to go out and provide for their people, so she sets out fur-trapping as what she considers her only way of giving back to the tribe. Unfortunately for her, as she enters the woods, she finds herself face to face with the monsters from the stories she’s been told her whole life.
“My mother’s people are very matriarchal and I want to show that,” he added. “But I also want to show people Canada in a way that most people don’t see. A lot of people are familiar with Vancouver or Montreal, but they’ve never been introduced to the Great Woods of Canada.”
Mapp has crafted this central character in obvious ways to reflect himself as someone from two worlds, but he’s also brought something, perhaps even more personal, to the character in that she will be queer.
Mapp, himself, identifies as pansexual and he only recently fully disclosed that publicly.
“I always knew that my affections could really fall with anyone,” he said. “It really comes down to whether or not I vibe with a person rather than the gender expression of that person. Growing up, my dad is a very strict Christian so it was a part of myself I wasn’t able to explore until I got older.”
The filmmaker has been out to his friends for some time, and says that he’s dated across the spectrum, but things got more real when he decided to make it “Facebook Official.”
“Facebook is a powerful tool. Some days I feel like I can even change some minds,” he said laughing. “It’s really a lot of pressure and I feel like black queer people are slowly breaking some of the molds in our larger community. It feels good when a straight black man says to me that he’s never considered something that I post about being queer and black and that’s awesome. And then I get the people who say that the black LGBTQ community is tearing down the black community and I kind of want to bash my head against a wall.”
Despite a few days in Facebook jail here and there, Mapp has handled the transition being out publicly with a grace born of growing up as a bridge between two cultures, and his considerable talents continue to blossom with his revelation.
I’ve no doubt those talents will continue to shape and mold the genre we love. Mark my words, Craig Mapp is a name you’re going to want to know.