Black Is King
Black Is King is a 2020 American musical film and visual album directed, written, and executive produced by American singer Beyoncé. The film serves as a visual companion to the 2019 album The Lion King: The Gift, curated by Beyoncé for The Lion King (2019). The story of Black Is King is an adaptation of The Lion King and just like the original story follows the life of a young African prince who is exiled from his kingdom and undergoes a journey of self-identity through his culture and ancestors. However, unlike the original movie this musical depicts the story through humans and acts as an allegory for the African diaspora’s journey of discovering, reclaiming and celebrating their black identity and heritage which is shown through spoken word, beautiful performances and an incredibly aesthetic production. The film celebrates African culture while introspecting its roots, beliefs and history in a future-fantasy sort of manner through one of the most iconic stories in the history of cinema.
Music & Production
Imagine every Beyoncé music video and now think of what an entire film directed by her would look like. It is grand, regal, magnificent and magical, just like the diva herself. Beyoncé described Black Is King as a love letter to Africa and you can feel it in every beat and scene because this visual album is an amalgamation of some of the greatest African talents and artists paying homage to their culture and its extremely hard to pick names from this bunch because everyone stays true to their work throughout the film.
The production standard is impeccably high and extremely well executed and it says a lot about the crew that has come together to execute this masterpiece. Every frame is a painting and you feel like pausing and absorbing each and every minute detail. I honestly haven’t seen cinematography as great as this one and no, I am not exaggerating when I say that this musical is a masterclass in cinematography. Shot extensively across some gorgeous locations in Africa, the film showcases the country in its true form and beauty. The film is in fact a masterclass for a number of other things like costume design, art direction, choreography, hair styling and probably every department. The costumes and production design is so unique and splendid that I was in awe of the entire crew for pulling off such a magnum task while staying true to their identity and culture.
The film’s soundtrack is another masterpiece and to be very honest it is exactly how awesome I expected it to be. The album is a curated by Beyoncé and serves as a visual piece for all the songs from The Lion King : The Gift. The film and album feature some of the best names of the industry like Jay-Z, Wizkid, Pharrell Williams, Burna Boy, Kelly Rowland and many more. The score contains traditional African music from the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music and released by Smithsonian Folkways and in a way reflects Beyoncé and the other music directors’ aspiration of finding their own identities through black pride and heritage. The soundtrack features some beautiful songs which have the soul of African music.
“Let Black be synonymous with glory.”
To be very honest I have never really been a fan of The Lion King and contrary to popular opinion I feel that it is a little overrated. And I know that stating this opinion right at the beginning is going to upset a few people but I have never really connected with the story in spite of liking certain elements in the film. So when Beyoncé announced her version and take on this story, I was completely onboard because I have always admired her ability to create mind-blowing stuff. Beyoncé’s passion for creating something great, unique and artistic while making it larger than life is exactly what makes her a diva and this film so great. Beyoncé plays the role of the spirit guide/ancestor which brings out her God-like persona so well and adds to the themes of spirituality throughout the story. The mark of any great adaptation is that the essence and soul of the story remains the same but the perspective of presenting that story is completely fresh while incorporating a lot of personal insights. This is exactly what makes Black Is King such a great adaptation. You can feel the essence of the original story throughout the film while also experiencing something completely different and unusual because it takes your imagination on a joy ride and the addition of representing African culture and history gives it a personal touch. The narrative is weaved so perfectly and all the visuals fall in place with the songs and story while also being great stand-alone musical pieces. This film is truly a tribute to the rich African culture because it not just includes the collaboration of an extremely talented crew and cast but also showcases the beauty of its land and history. Black Is King sensitively portrays the struggles associated with the African diaspora while giving it a completely modern and contemporary narrative.
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.