Cannes Lions 2019 Grand Prix Winner: This Is America by Childish Gambino

Antonis Kontozanis
Jun 8, 2020 · 5 min read

The one of two winners everyone was talking about in the Entertainment for Music category at the Cannes Lions 2019 Grand Prix Awards was “This Is America” by American actor Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino. The second award was given to “Bluesman”, a short film by Brazilian rapper Baco Exo do Blues.

In the video, Donald Glover appears as his alter ego Childish Gambino and uses explicit imagery and graphic content alongside various black-culture elements in order to show the current state of modern America. Violence, racism and marginalization are just a few examples of the fears that black people in the US are dealing with till this day. The video-clip went viral upon its release and has raised a lot of awareness concerning the demand for equal rights between african-american citizens and the rest of the american citizens.

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Photo by Julio Cortez on ABC

Following the recent events of the death of George Floyd by American police officers and the “Black Lives Matter” movement, the song and video have re-emerged on social media and streaming platforms such as Spotify and iTunes. The song is also being used on Tik Tok, a very popular app, where african-american users create videos showing the racism they have to deal with every single day.

The demographic that the video mostly appeals to is the black community of America which over the years has faced a lot of brutality and violence and they are more likely to be sentimentally moved by the theme of the song and the video. There are a lot of families and generations that have felt marginalized from the American society, from the Apartheid in the 1950s to today. Of course, the black community is not the only group that the video-clip is aimed to; it also seems to appeal to other social groups, such as liberals, minorities and other groups with social concerns.

Just by watching the video for the first time, one could assume that it is a national campaign which only appeals to the african-american community in the US. Despite the fact that the song is called “This Is America”, we can easily assume that it is an international campaign because problems such as racism and gun violence are real in other countries and continents too, outside America. Thus, the video raises awareness on a global level calling for governments around the world to take strict measures about gun control and racism against the minorities.

Of course, the main key message that the video tries to show is the current state of modern America. The black culture is a huge part in the country’s cultural and societal development throughout the years, but still black people are obliged to face numerous problems in their everyday life. These problems are a significant obstacle for the US as a nation which can’t seem to progress. A solution is obviously needed as soon as possible in order to save the undefended victims.

The messages of the video are not clear at all times; there are a lot of hidden images and messages that the director tries to imply. Here are some of them…

  1. The video begins with a calm melody coming from a sitted black man playing the guitar. Suddenly the music stops and the man is laying to the ground, shot in the head. Seems like a wake up call is intended for the viewers.
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2. A group of kids alongside Childish Gambino dance as a distraction, while there are criminal acts and acts of violence are happening around them and in the background.

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3. In the video, the tragic mass church shooting in South Carolina in June 2015 is included, showing the actor shooting a group of black people singing gospel songs.

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In the meantime, there are kids in the same scene that use their smartphones to record the incident, symbolizing the tendency of people to record violence and post it on social media.

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“This Is America” has a vast and very positive impact to the world in its own unique way. There is clearly a finger pointed towards America and its grievous and dark problems through graphic images and symbolic scenes. The severity of the phenomenon is totally clear throughout the whole video-clip and the artist makes sure to give the viewers a chance to think critically about it and even take action.

The 2019 Grand Prix winner is definitely a good story because it draws a lot of attention around the social issues concerning the US for the past years. The actor himself represents America, showing both gun possession and violence and the chaos that takes place in the background while using entertainment as a distraction. Thus, one can assume that there is a hidden message implying the attempt of the media to cover the problems up and disorientate the american people. “This Is America” is a raw yet meaningful way to express the country’s real face and to seek practical solutions on such critical issues.

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Antonis Kontozanis

Written by

Hi! I’m Antonis, I’m 20 years old and I live in Greece. I like singing, dancing and acting!

AD DISCOVERY AND CREATIVITY LAB

Advertising and Public Relations Lab (#ADandPRLAB) Publication to cultivate a culture of curiosity, experimentation, co-creation and impact digital storytelling for students, professionals and academics. We explore the new futures in communication, branding, and digital media

Antonis Kontozanis

Written by

Hi! I’m Antonis, I’m 20 years old and I live in Greece. I like singing, dancing and acting!

AD DISCOVERY AND CREATIVITY LAB

Advertising and Public Relations Lab (#ADandPRLAB) Publication to cultivate a culture of curiosity, experimentation, co-creation and impact digital storytelling for students, professionals and academics. We explore the new futures in communication, branding, and digital media

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