TL;DR – A visual masterwork and required viewing if you have Disney+
Score – 4.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Today we review a film that might be the oddest film I have watched from a conceptional perspective. It is a reinterpretation of the story of the Lion King remake, a movie I thought was okay but not much more. But this reframing is the barest framework the film uses throughout to explore everything from religion to music to race and more. This should not work, but it does.
The first thing you have to wrap your mind around is how to categorise this film because Black is King is not here to make that easy. It is a part look back at the Lion King, it is part music video, it is part travelogue, part spiritual journey, part techno colour kaleidoscope, part look at history and culture, and part conversation with her children. This could have been an unmitigated mess with all the different facets of the film competing for prominence. However, it is a credit to the film and the entire creative team behind it that this experimental film works from start to finish.
Many films try to hide their politics and themes or at least remove themselves from it to not offend potential audiences. Here they don’t just wear their themes on their sleeves. They hold it up for all to see … well to use the metaphor of the film like Rafiki holding up Simba. The film opens with Moses floating down the river transitioning to ocean baptism. The music (which I am not going into too deeply because it is a bit out of my wheelhouse) name drops everyone from The King and Mansa Musa and titles like Brown Skin Girls. I mean they have the American flag recontextualised in the pan-African colours, they are not messing around here.
Five minutes into Black is King, and there has been more iconic cinematography than some films can muster in their entire runtime. Indeed, half an hour into the film we get exquisite costumes of people dressed up as a chess set, and that is only in the foothills of the heights this film will soar in its runtime. Just when you think this whole film is a mood, the film makes sure to let you know that it is 100% aware it is a mood, and it is revelling in it. From just cinematography, or costuming, or choreography perspective, I would recommend this film, and it is all those factors and more. Look, we have a picture between every paragraph, and it has barely scratched the surface of all the iconic moments in this film.
In the end, do we recommend Black is King? Absolutely. It is compelling from the opening moment to the final frame. It elevates what comes before and stamps its mark on the future. If you have Disney+, you need to give this a watch. It is just a shame 2020 happened, because could you imagine this dropping in theatres and being in a full cinema watching this unfold along with the rest of the audience. If you liked Black is King I would also recommend to you Homecoming and Guava Island.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Black is King
Directed by – Beyoncé Knowles-Carter & Kwasi Fordjour with Emmanuel Adjei, Blitz Bazawule, Pierre Debusschere, Jenn Nkiru, Ibra Ake, Dikayl Rimmasch, Jake Nava, Dafe Oboro & Julian Klincewicz.
Written by – Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Clover Hope & Andrew Morrow with Warsan Shire
Music by – James William Blades, Melo-X & Derek Dixie
Cinematography by – Ryan Marie Helfant, Santiago Gonzalez, Mohammaed Atta Ahmed, David Boanuh, Michael Fernandez, Erik Henriksson, Danny Hiele, Laura Merians, Nicolai Niermann, Kenechukwu Obiajulu, Malik Sayeed & Benoit Soler
Edited by – Andrew Morrow, Maria-Celeste Garrahan, Haines Hall & Tom Watson
Production/Distribution Companies – Parkwood Production,
Featuring – Beyoncé, Tina Knowles Lawson, Jay-Z, Blue Ivy Carter, Rumi Carter, Sir Carter, Kelly Rowland, Lord Afrixana, Yemi Alade, Jessie Reyez, Shatta Wale, Salatiel, Pharrell Williams, Wizkid, Naomi Campbell, Adut Akech, Aweng Chuol, Lupita Nyong’o, Tiwa Savage, Mr Eazi, Nija, Tierra Whack, Busiswa, Moonchild Sanelly, Folajomi Akinmurele, Connie Chiume, Nyaniso Ntsikelelo Dzedze, Nandi, Madida, Warren Masemola, Bibusiso Mbeje, Fumi Odede, Stephen Ojo, May Twala,
Rating – Around an Australia: PG;