‘Superb. Reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s Remember The Time!’ – Vaughn Lowery, 360 Magazine
By Mina Tocalini
Beyoncé’s new film “Black is King,” a celebration of the “breadth and beauty of Black ancestry”, released on Disney+ today. Similar to Beyoncé’s 2016 film, “Lemonade,” “Black is King” acts as a visual album to her soundtrack, “The Lion King: The Gift.” Black Is King” explores the “timeless lessons” from Lion King in a visually rich modern journey of Black empowerment and resilience.
Beyoncé announced her excitement for the film’s release via Instagram, while further acknowledging the impact of its release and message: “The events of 2020 have made the film’s vision and message even more relevant, as people across the world embark on a historic journey… I believe that when Black people tell our own stories, we can shift the axis of the world and tell our REAL history.”
Beyoncé’s prideful film explores the Black experience and history through a young king’s story of “betrayal, love and self-identity.” Additionally, given the timing of its release, the film presents the necessity of honoring and telling stories from the Black perspective and that of any underrepresented community.
Simply put, the film is a celebratory visual journey of the Black experience. Initially the flow of the story seems interrupted and fast paced, but further on, it becomes clear that instead of following a linear narrative, it challenges the audience to find the connections within the short moments that frame each message.
Reiterating the same story we know and love is unnecessary, so rather, “Black is King” reinvents the Lion King through thematic experimentation intended to ignite pride in the Black identity. In a stunning collage of Afro-Soul music, narrative driven reflections and strikingly beautiful imagery, the film successfully expresses inspirational messages of hope, growth, love and community.
Some have critiqued the lavish presentation of Blackness via art, dance and fashion to be excessive and fast paced. Yet, this film’s message is focused on individuality and self love derived from the appreciation of Black culture. A culture of an entire continent and of Black communities around the world, it is anything but simple.
The immense detail in this film celebrates the complexity of Black beauty and the fast paced editing can not only be considered a reference to music video styles. It may originate from there, but can we not interpret it as being part of the overwhelming journey of defining your identity while struggling with the racial tensions in society.
Beyoncé did not create this to simply further enhance her image in a display of wealth, popular culture already associates her persona this way, we expect it and should not disregard the artistry for embracing it. She is simply using her power as a superstar to lead the unifying celebration, as should be done by those who can.
Additionally, Beyoncé is not the only star in “Black is King”, although American audiences may mainly recognize her. Emerging African artists such as Wizkid, Busiswa, Shatta Wale, Salatiel, Mr Eazi, Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Burna Boy, Tekno, Moonchild Sanelly and Lord Afrixana were part of the album and in some in the film. Black American artists also include Kelly Rowland, 070 Shake, Childish Gambino, Jessie Reyez, Pharrell Williams, Nija, and Tierra Whack. The presence of these Black American legends establishes the familiarity necessary to create an alliance between both Black cultures and induce a movement of African diaspora celebration.