'Black Is King': Release date, cast, trailer and all you need to know about Beyonce's visual ode to Africa and Black culture
'Black Is King' is an upcoming film and visual album from Beyonce. The film is meant to serve as a visual companion to the 2019 album 'The Lion King: The Gift', an album curated by Beyonce to go with the 2019 remake of 'The Lion King'.
'Black Is King' will be released globally to stream on Disney+ on July 31, 2020, and will be aired across Africa the following day on M-Net and Canal+ Afrique.
The plot for 'Black Is King', according to a press release for the film, revolves around the journey a young African king goes through, braving "betrayal, love, and self-identity" as he fights to reclaim his throne under the guidance of his ancestors and his childhood love.
'Black Is King' is essentially an extension of Beyonce's work on 'The Lion King: The Gift', which the singer herself described as "a love letter to Africa." As part of her desire to turn the release into an ode to the continent, Beyonce elected to find "the best talent from Africa," adding she did not want to "just use some of the sounds and [do] my interpretation of it". With 'Black Is King', the singer and her crew have taken this concept to the next level. The visual album is set to contain multiple chapters, each representing a different African locality, and cast and crew belonging to these regions were specifically hired to ensure a level of authenticity was maintained. Additionally, filming occurred in the countries being portrayed.
In an interview with Elle, Beyonce shared that the film was meant to "celebrate the breadth and beauty of Black ancestry" and "to present elements of Black history and African tradition, with a modern twist and a universal message, and what it truly means to find your self-identity and build a legacy." Research for the film centered on "exploring and absorbing the lessons of past generations and the rich history of different African customs."
The film was directed, written, and executive produced by Beyonce with poet Yrsa Daley-Ward and writer Clover Hope contributing to the script. Ghanaian filmmakers and visual artists Blitz the Ambassador and Emmanuel Adjei, Nigerian-British artist and director Jenn Nkiru, South African visual artist Trevor Stuurman, and Academy Award-winning production designer Hannah Beachler were also recruited to contribute to certain segments of the film. Additionally, artists featured on 'The Gift', such as Shatta Wale, Burna Boy, Salatiel and Wizkid, as well as special guests such as Blue Ivy, Jay-Z, and Kelly Rowland were also recruited to contribute to 'Black Is King'.
In addition to starring Beyonce herself, 'Black Is King' also features appearances from husband Jay-Z, mother Tina Knowles-Lawson (who loaned some of her own art pieces for the film), daughter Blue Ivy Carter and former Destiny's Child bandmate Kelly Rowland. Additionally, musicians Pharrell Williams, supermodel Naomi Campbell and actress Lupita Nyong'o are also set to star in the film. South Sudanese models Adut Akech and Aweng Ade-Chuol and child actor Folajomi "FJ" Akinmurele will also be a part of the film. The cast also features South African actors Nandi Madida and Warren Masemola, and Nigerian actor Papi Ojo in his debut film role.
Beyonce's previous film was the 2019 musical drama, 'The Lion King', a remake of the popular animated film, in which she lent her voice to the role of the lioness, Nala. Prior to that, the singer released 'Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce', which documented her performance at the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Just like with 'Black Is King', 'Homecoming' was written, directed, and executive produced by Beyoncé herself and starred Jay-Z, former Destiny's Child members Rowland and Michelle Williams, Blue Ivy Carter, and many others. It premiered on Netflix in 2019 to widespread critical acclaim, with many calling the film a "masterpiece" and declaring it one of the greatest films of all time. Beyonce has already demonstrated her skill when it comes to helming a visual project, so it should be quite interesting to see how her craft has developed with 'Black Is King'.
The tale of the young African king is told through the voices of present-day Black people themselves. As the cast indicates, Beyonce has elected to include both African and African-American voices in this narrative, which should make for both an authentic as well as an empowering experience.
The 'Black Is King' album features music based on 'The Lion King: The Gift'. The songs 'My Power', 'Mood 4 Eva' and 'Brown Skin Girl' have all been confirmed to have videos within the film. The first single to be released off the album was 'Black Parade', which Beyonce put out on Juneteenth as her way of celebrating Black culture and community. All proceeds from the track were pledged to support Black-owned small businesses in need through Beyonce's 'BeyGOOD' initiative.
The trailer features Beyonce reading from the 1971 book 'Black Gods and Kings', which was written by American art-historian Robert Farris Thompson in an effort to record the art history of the Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria. The short clip alone already earned praise from critics. Jasmine Ting from Paper called it a "colorful cinematic masterpiece" with "out-of-this-world visuals," additionally complimenting the film for being able to blend "traditional cultural elements from the African continent" with "modern-day African-American culture."
Where to stream
'Black Is King' will be released on Disney+ on July 31, 2020, and will be aired across Africa the following day on M-Net and Canal+ Afrique.
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