Yes, Donald Glover is a genius. Yes, the single “This Is America” is amazing and its music video is the music video to end all music videos. But he didn’t do it alone. After all, every artist needs a good director. Enter: Hiro Murai.
You may have heard of Murai before, especially in the same breath as Glover, as the two have been collaborating for years and his stock is on the rise now more than ever. On Thursday, four days after this story first posted, he signed a first look deal with FX Productions.
A Tokyo-born filmmaker who moved to Los Angeles when he was nine years old and graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Murai is best known for the projects he’s done with Glover as Childish Gambino and for directing a good chunk of the actor’s Emmy-winning FX series “Atlanta.”
And chances are his name will become more and more popular as people discover he was the man behind the camera for Childish Gambino’s latest project, “This Is America.”
The music video for the track — which Glover dropped on YouTube while hosting “Saturday Night Live” last weekend — is still a hot topic on social media and is being dissected by fans and critics alike as we write.
In the surreal, violent video, a shirtless Gambino dances in an empty building as chaos erupts around him, with some of that chaos coming from Gambino himself, as he casually shoots a hooded man in the back of the head and mows down a group of choir singers with a machine gun. Later in the video, Sza can be seen sitting nearby, as Gambino dances on top of an ’80s sedan.
The video ends with a terrified Gambino running through dark hallways, being chased by a crowd before the shot cuts to black. The video has already been praised as an artistic, confrontational take on gun violence in American society, with guns being treated with care while corpses are dragged away.
It is his relationship with Gambino — we mean Glover — that led him to film seven episodes of “Atlanta” Season 1, and another seven for the currently airing Season 2 aka “Atlanta Robbin’ Season,” including the much-discussed “Teddy Perkins” and this Thursday’s finale “Crabs in a Barrel.”
Though he had never directed for television before, he got the gig by being Glover’s favorite music video director, as the cable network let the creator have his pick for the series. “If I were FX, I wouldn’t have hired me,” Murai told the New Yorker in March.
“Hiro has excelled as a director and a creative force in commercials, music videos and episodic television, and we welcome the chance to see him develop his own series through FX Productions,” said Eric Schrier and Nick Grad, Presidents of Original Programming for FX Networks and FX Productions Thursday, after Murai signed his new deal. “He helped make ‘Atlanta’ the most acclaimed comedy series on television, greatly contributing to its signature style and tone and becoming an integral part of the creative team led by Donald Glover. With his boundless artistry, Hiro is poised to take the next step as a television creator.”
Since then, he’s directed episodes of FX’s “Legion” and HBO’s freshman series “Barry.”
Apart from his work with Glover, Murai has run point on music videos for artists like Earl Sweatshirt, Chet Faker, Flying Lotus, David Guetta, The Shins, The Fray, Bloc Party and Queens of the Stone Age.
The season finale of “Atlanta” airs Thursday at 10/9 c on FX.