Black is King premiered on 31 July 2020 on Disney+ Hotstar. The 85-minute long film is based on The Lion King: The Gift, a soundtrack album curated by American singing sensation Beyonce for the 2019 photorealistic animated remake of The Lion King.
The film has received numerous critics praising Beyonce’s direction – the cinematography, score, costume design, subject matter, and cultural themes.
Black Is King In The Truest Sense
“History is your future. One day you will meet yourself back where you started, but stronger.”
Pursuing literature musical drama isn’t something new to me but Black Is King is a masterpiece of its kind. The narrative is so perfectly woven with songs and minimal dialogues, it is worth every minute of it. Beyonce pays reverence to the African diaspora and Black futurism in a beautiful and flawless way through this film.
For the last few years, Beyonce has been vocal about the Black narrative. This remake of the Disney classic The Lion King is the singer’s attempt at representing the sovereignty of Black pride. The year 2020 has been hard but the long history of Black discrimination on the hands of white supremacists remains the same.
The deaths of civilians like George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor at the hands of law enforcement is an example of police brutality which led to the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this year.
According to Disney, her new effort is meant to reimagine the lessons of Lion King “for today’s young kings and queens in search of their own crowns.”
The message Beyonce brings forward in the film is to embrace and look up to the rich legacy of your ancestors. While the message may sound simple, the way it is brought forward is flamboyant, profound, and defiantly creative. The scenarios are weaved into one abstract and most cohesive narrative which speaks volumes.
“You’re something bigger than you and me, bigger than the picture they framed us to see”
Black Is King revolves around a young African King who is cast out from his family into an unforgiving world. To reclaim his throne and his self-identity as a king, he must revisit the lessons of the past handed down by his ancestors and learn through the process.
The whole narrative is built in a Beyonce world and therefore, it involves strong commentary on womanhood, heartwarming insights to a mother’s life, and cheetah print and lavish cars and set (Oh, Mama!)
“Black is the color of my true love’s skin.”
The album begins in decades-old Africa where a woven basket is riding along with the high tides of the river. Inside is the innocent infant king, she says “Bless the body born celestial, beautiful in dark matter, Black is the color of my true love’s skin. Coils and hair catching centuries of prayer spread through the smoke. You are welcome to come home to yourself. Let Black be synonymous with glory.” On the shore is Beyonce, in a white gown to receive the king. Nobody knows who she is – Mother Nature? A mother? A resident? Heavenly fairy? She is power, she is beautiful and irresistible.
While one might wonder how pop-songs help in bringing out serious matters like racism or cultural disparities, the film doesn’t fail in delivering its message.
Beyonce, before the release of Black Is King, posted on Instagram saying, “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. We are all in search of safety and light. Many of us want to change. I believe that when Black people tell our own stories, we can shift the axis of the world and tell our REAL history of generational wealth and richness of soul that are not told in our history books.“
Stream It or Skip It
STREAM IT! Black is King is a visual masterpiece you should not miss. You don’t get much time to grasp the costume and set change – it is flawlessly done. Beyonce, through this, relies on West African religion and lineage for her Black audience to find grace in spite of historical trauma, induced upon them with a long lying imperialistic history.
The film is filled with soundtracks that’ll make you feel empowered and proud of your culture no matter what you think about it. Truly, a masterpiece! Beyonce lays bare that celebrating Blackness isn’t just an appreciation of the past. Black Is King is a reclamation of our thriving future.
Black Is King is now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.
Read our other reviews here.