Black Is King is a 2020 musical film and visual album directed, written and executive produced by American singer Beyoncé. The film serves as a visual companion to the 2019 album The Lion King: The Gift, a tie-in album curated by Beyoncé for the 2019 remake of The Lion King.
Black Is King was released globally to stream on Disney+ on July 31, 2020, and will be aired the following day across Sub-Saharan Africa on M-Net and Canal+ Afrique and across the Middle East and North Africa on OSN.
According to those who have worked on the film, Black Is King contains multiple chapters representing different localities, such as Nigeria and Ghana, with cast and crew of that nationality recruited to contribute and filming taking place in those countries.
On June 10, 2020, it was reported that Beyoncé was securing a $100 million deal to work on three films for Disney. Black Is King was intended to be a companion piece to the 2019 album The Lion King: The Gift. Beyoncé explained that the film was created
” 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.”
To research for the film, Beyoncé described how she “spent a lot of time exploring and absorbing the lessons of past generations and the rich history of different African customs”. The trailer shows Beyoncé reading from the 1971 book Black Gods and Kings, written by American art-historian Robert Farris Thompson to record the art history of the Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria.
The film was written by Beyoncé, with poet Yrsa Daley-Ward and writer Clover Hope contributing to the script.
“Black is King” pre-production activities
The cast and crew for Black Is King were recruited to “represent diversity and connectivity”, with Beyoncé wanting to feature “raw, new talent”. Those recruited to direct segments of the film include Ghanaian filmmakers and visual artists Emmanuel Adjei and Blitz the Ambassador, Nigerian-British artist and director Jenn Nkiru, and South African visual artist Trevor Stuurman. Academy Award winner Hannah Beachler was recruited as one of the production designers.
Beyoncé borrowed some of her mother Tina Knowles-Lawson’s art pieces for Black Is King, as revealed by Knowles-Lawson during a February 2020 interview with the Wall Street Journal.
“Black is King” Star studded Cast
Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, 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 “FJ” Akinmurele, Connie Chiume, Nyaniso Ntsikelelo Dzedze, Nandi Madida, Warren Masemola, Sibusiso Mbeje, Fumi Odede, Stephen Ojo, Mary Twala, JD McCrary as Young Simba, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Billy Eichner as Timon, Donald Glover and Nigerian actor Papi Ojo, for whom Black Is King is his debut film performance.
Filming locations for “Black is King”
Filming primarily took place in the latter half of 2019, in locations such as South Africa, West Africa (including Ghana and Nigeria), New York, Los Angeles, London and Belgium.
Black Is King was released globally on July 31, 2020 on Disney+. This is soon after the one-year anniversary of the release of The Lion King in 2019.
As Disney+ is not available in Africa, a distribution deal was made with Central and West African television channel Canal+ Afrique and South African media conglomerate MultiChoice Group’s channel M-Net, to screen Black Is King across Sub-Saharan Africa on August 1, 2020.
For the film’s premiere, the MultiChoice Group will open M-Net for all DStv customers for about 2 hours on the rest of the packages except for the Premium package. As part of the deal, Black Is King will be aired in countries such as South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Namibia, Cameroon, Liberia, Burundi, Senegal, Togo, Somalia, Benin, Congo, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Gabon and Cape Verde.
Additionally, Emirati television network OSN will screen Black Is King throughout the Middle East and North Africa region.