The Short List #5: Childish Gambino’s “This is America” (2018, dir. Hiro Murai)

The Short List #6: “This is America”

The Short List #1: "Sweet Things" (2018, dir. Henry K. Norvalls)The Short List is our running list of notable short features available online. Every week, we share one short film which we think deserves to be watched by many. The short films included in our list can come from any country but has to be publicly available online. 

Click here to see the full list of short films—you can also submit your own.

Childish Gambino’s new single, “This is America,” raises a mirror revealing the American identity from the eyes of an insider. It’s a burgeoning self-portrait, calling out in no vague terms how America literally dances around the issues that plague its nation, be it gun reform, racism, and consumerism to name just a few.

The music video, directed by Hiro Murai, offers Gambino’s song imagery so resonant and beholding and with as much veracity as the music it’s set to. In large sweeps of the camera, unadorned except for the scenes’ business with razor-thin depth of field to match, Gambino’s “This is America” weaves a narrative that unfurls with a nation’s exponential ignorance and neglect. Racism? Shake it off. Gun violence? Bust out a hip and do the Gwara-gwara. But perhaps the most unflinching insight is one in which Gambino is directly involved: myopia that comes with fame and celebrity.

Being a product of it himself, Gambino’s unmasked person, Donald Glover, has built a career in entertainment. His stint in Dan Harmon’s cult-hit “Community” and his success as a musical debonair as Gambino don’t go unnoticed and unrewarded. And in a way, he’s telling us he’s cursed to a perpetual manic dance because America doesn’t bat its eye in leaving those who don’t set themselves into its chosen mold in irreversible peril.

The closing shot, which slowly creeps out to a vast collection of cars and a beautiful damsel (SZA) hunkered on the hood of one of the cars, signals that he himself is now a part of the system. It’s a sobering jolt of reality Gambino unleashes, and his work, untethered to its own greatness, leaves me floored. 

Watch Childish Gambino’s “This is America” by hitting the play button above or the video embedded below.

Let us know your thoughts on this week’s “Short List” short and stay put ’till next week for a new one.

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