Master review – sinister tale of academic prejudice

Gail Bishop is locked out of her new home. The university professor, played by Regina Hall, has recently been appointed as house “master” at the elite (and fictional) Andover College. Except the keys she has been given don’t seem to work. It’s an elegant metaphor in Mariama Diallo’s smart debut feature about three black women – Gail, her colleague Liv Beckman (Amber Gray) and new student Jasmine (Zoe Renee) – as they each struggle to navigate the all-white institution.

Two spectres haunt one of the college’s dorm rooms: a “witch” who was tried and hanged and Andover’s first black student, who died by suicide in 1968. There are parallels between Gail and Jasmine too, who are both rattled by a series of microaggressions at the hands of their white colleagues. Diallo utilises the visual language of horror – red lighting, empty shower stalls, a gnarled hand that emerges from under the bed – to express the terror of racism and the rot of its legacy.

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