Childish Gambino’s hyper-viral music video “This is America” was one of two Grand Prix winners in the Entertainment for Music category at Cannes, alongside “Bluesman,” a short film/concept album from Brazilian rapper Baco Exo do Blues.
Jury president Paulette Long, a U.K.-based music consultant, said the two winners explored issues of diversity, racism and violence, but in very different ways.
She described “This is America,” in which actor Donald Glover as his alter ego Childish Gambino uses dance and graphic images of shooting to draw attention to racism and violence in the U.S., as a “cultural phenomenon.”
“Every so often a video comes out and it points a finger and makes us admit that we need to do something different. When I first saw it, I was shocked, I was stunned and I thought it was brilliant.”
While “This is America” was a high-profile piece of work, “Bluesman,” from Brazil, was less well-known. Created by AKQA Sao Paulo and Stink Films Sao Paulo and directed by Douglas Bernhardt, the work is a short film serving as a concept album for Baco Exo Do Blues, a Brazilian rap artist, and highlights racism in Brazil.
What particularly stands out, said Long, is a recurring image of a black man running through the streets, which turns out in the end to be simply because he’s late. “It sparked an important debate on institutional racism, and the idea took this artist from the underground of rap to mainstream of music.”
She added: “It’s brilliant, arty and classy -- and he’s a brand new artist. For me when I think about the information that came through, it’s that outside of Africa Brazil has biggest black population but black people are twice as likely to be killed. This artist has been able to use his own experience in his country to show this and to start a movement.”
The jury would have rather awarded one Grand Prix, she admitted, but it was “split down the middle” between the two pieces of work. “We kept going around and around. But in the end, these two videos do exactly the same thing in different ways. One is a very Western view of the world and one is something different.”
In choosing both a famous piece of work and one by a new, less globally well-known artist, Long said she felt the jury had done the right thing and also that she wanted to “level the playing field” between the U.S and Brazil.
The jury leaned heavily towards purpose and value-driven music projects. Among the 14 Lions awarded, 65 percent were pieces of work that highlighted issues and values and were ”for the people,” said Long. Other issues that were touched on by the winning work included domestic violence, bullying and helping people with disabilities.
She added: “I really feel that at Cannes, it’s for us to do this and use these tools that we have to put our voice out there and make a positive difference.”