08.02.2020

'Black Is King': Film Review

'Black Is King': Film Review Photo by Parkwood Entertainment.

An entry into the "visual album" format stuffed with so much visual stimulation you want to stare at clouds after watching it, Beyoncé's Black Is King is a sometimes thrilling showcase for African artists whose work fuses brilliantly with that of Americans who have roots on the continent.

A companion to an album that was inspired by a film based on a children's animated adventure later turned into a blockbuster Broadway musical (got all that?), this is a project that deserves to be free from any link to The Lion King but instead keeps reminding us of those ties; audio clips from Jon Favreau's 2019 film are dropped in at regular intervals that feel like commercial breaks. You can hardly blame Disney for wanting to put their stamp all over this, and to show it exclusively on their Disney+ service; but the emphatic branding seems a bit at odds with the music's expansive, support-all-Black-youth message.

The work is clearly labeled "a film by Beyoncé," and the credits begin with "Directed by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter." But then there's a co-director title card for Kwasi Fordjour, and a third screen listing seven others credited as "directors." The latter group makes sense, given that this is a quilt made of videos for songs from last year's The Lion King: The Gift. But these videos are hardly interchangeable, and it would be nice to know which filmmaker created which.

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