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The Director Behind “This Is America” Is Known For Telling Stories About Race In His Videos

Director Hiro Murai is a master at making you feel something.

Posted on May 7, 2018, at 6:11 p.m. ET

This is Hiro Murai, who directed Childish Gambino’s "This is America" video.

Hiro Murai

Here he is without the mask.

James Goulden Photography / Getty Images

The video is being praised for bluntly addressing gun violence, police brutality, and racism against black people in the US.

RCA Records / Via

It is loaded with symbolism — some of it very in-your-face...

RCA Records / Via

And some you might easily miss amid the choreography and chaos, sometimes in the very same scene...

RCA Records / Via

(For example, the man's corpse is being dragged out of frame immediately followed by two men chasing each other.)

"This is America" consists of a handful of long, drawn-out shots as if to suggest we aren't allowed to avert our eyes.

I've watched @donaldglover's new music video a few times now and the first time I watched it I had a familiar, primal discomfort that I couldn't place. It wasn't until the third watch that I realized it was reminding me of Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971). Some thoughts:

@kyalbr / Twitter

Murai has a history of creating blunt, disorienting music videos that tackle civil rights issues head-on.

As a longtime collaborator of Donald Glover's, he's directed many music videos for Childish Gambino as well as several episodes for Glover's TV show, Atlanta. He's also made videos with Frank Ocean, St. Vincent, and Queens of the Stone Age.

Take this 2014 music video from Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar's "Never Catch Me," which was directed by Murai and released less than two months after police officers killed Michael Brown.

Warp Records via YouTube / Via

The video depicts two young black children who come back to life at their own funeral and break into dance — as the adults in the church keep mourning.

Warp Records via YouTube / Via

They run outside to dance among other children before jumping into a hearse...

Warp Records via YouTube / Via

...and driving off into the sunset.

Warp Records via YouTube / Via

You can watch the entire video here:

View this video on YouTube / Via

And there's this scene from a 2016 video Murai directed for Michael Kiwanuka's "Black Man in a White World," in which a police car crashes into another car behind a dancing black man...

Warner/Chappell Music, Inc via YouTube / Via

...and the police car just keeps on going.

It's then followed by this man dancing at higher and higher elevations until he floats above the scene of the accident.

Warner/Chappell Music, Inc via YouTube / Via

Watch it here:

View this video on YouTube

Or here's a video for Baauer's "Day Ones," which features Revolutionary War–era soldiers shooting each other in the streets as Novelist and Leikeli47 rap amid the carnage.

Baauer - Day Ones ft Novelist & Leikeli47/ LUCKY ME / Via

The birth of a nation.

Murai's style has been said to capture the "weirdness of real life."

He uses that style to grab viewers' attention — whether it's via cultural and political flashpoints, like we saw above, or just to make them feel something when they watch his art.

mcDJ Recording / Via

Like this awkward-as-hell shot of Childish Gambino trying to hit on a woman in "Sober."

Or rapper Earl Sweatshirt hanging upside down in a parking lot in the music video for the song "Chum."

Columbia Records / Via

Or this black dog with a skull face in the same video.

Columbia Records / Via

Murai says he wants his weirdness to help us find a new way — in these evermore heated and divisive times — into a productive dialogue about racism in the US.

"We always talk about how obviously there is still very in-your-face aggressive racism. But there's a lot of passive racism that, in the moment, you don't even realize is racist," Murai told GQ. (BuzzFeed News has asked him for an interview.)

"You chalk it up as a strange interaction you had, and then you look at the context of it later on and realize the root of it was racism. I don't think that latent racism gets talked about enough. It's such a weird feeling to be in it in the moment because you can't categorize this interaction in any other way."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.