08 May, 2018 ·
Who is Hiro Murai? The director behind Donald Glover’s "This Is America"
08 May, 2018 ·
Donald Glover is a genius. A modern day Renaissance man whose long list of accomplishments has only just begun. While hosting SNL this past weekend, he joked in his opening monologue, “I’m an actor, a writer and a singer — some people like to call me a triple threat, but I kinda like to call myself just a threat.”
That night, Childish Gambino (his musical persona) debuted his single “This Is America”, for which the powerfully shocking music video has everyone talking.
In the video, violent scenes make a statement on gun violence against Black Americans. Juxtaposed with Donald's erratic dancing, people are comparing the performance to be a modern day minstrel show. Twitter fans are still coming up with new theories on how to interpret the music video. There's a lot to unpack, so here's a list of a few things you might not have noticed the first time you watched it.
Shot in what looks like a long continuous take, the man behind the camera is director, Hiro Murai. As Donald Glover's "favorite music video director", Hiro directed a few of his videos including "Sober", "3500", and "Telegraph Ave". And although Hiro never directed for television before, Donald chose him to be the director for most of the episodes of his now Emmy-award winning show, “Atlanta”.
So who is Hiro Murai?
Born in Japan, Hiro moved to Los Angeles at the age of nine and went to USC School of Cinematic Arts before becoming a music video director. After getting bored with working on pop hits like B.o.B’s "Airplanes” and Usher’s "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love", Hiro started to embrace his own style. By bringing an element of “weirdness” to the videos he worked on, he’s been able to work on visuals collaborating with artists from Frank Ocean and St. Vincent, to A Tribe Called Quest.
Influenced by Japanese culture, he studied the ﬁlms of Takeshi Kitano, and the literary work of Haruki Murakami. Learning from them, he wanted to capture the weirdness of real life. As he described, the “feeling you get when surreality starts bleeding into reality”, like a dream. For those who’ve watched Atlanta, “This Is America” has parallels in how it uses surrealism as an expression to talk about real issues in American society.
With his unique aesthetic and haunting visuals, Hiro Murai is one of the best directors that many haven't heard of, yet. Here are some of MANDO's favorite videos by him: