Residente’s “This is not America” Wins Entertainment Lion D’Or

René Pérez—better-known as Residente—won the “Grand Prix for Entertainment Lions for Music” for his music video “This is not America” in Cannes, becoming one of the first exponents of urban music to win a coveted award at Cannes Lion. As Puerto Rico’s National Foundation for Popular Culture (prpop) points out, the video was directed by French director Gregory Ohrel and creatively directed by René Pérez (Residente). The video also features the French-Cuban duo Ibeyi. [Something that related articles have not mentioned so far is that the opening seen (see screen capture below) represents Puerto Rican Nationalist activist Lolita Lebrón firing a gun at the House of Representatives, for which she was condemned as a terrorist and imprisoned for 25 years.]

Parker Herren (Ad Age) writes that this music video from artist Residente dethroned a front-runner “after a judge asks whether it’s hate speech.” Here are excerpts from “’This is not America’ snags Surprise Entertainment Lions Win for Music Grand Prix at Cannes.”

The music video for “This Is Not America Ft. Ibeyi” by artist Residente won the Grand Prix for Entertainment Lions for Music. The bold, political and graphic work, submitted by Doomsday Entertainment and Sony Music Latin America, is a sonic protest of American imperialism as the Puerto Rican artist lists the countless pieces of land and culture stolen and white-washed.

The video features violent imagery, as well as suggestive visual takedowns of American iconography, including Indigenous people standing in place of the Statue of Liberty, being shot through the head in a football stadium and striking a victory pose atop a pile of Amazon boxes. Lyrics like “America isn’t only the USA, pal, This is from Tierra del Fuego to Canada, You have to be so stupid, such an airhead, It’s like saying that Africa is only Morocco, These scoundrels forgot that the calendar they use, Was invented by the Mayans,” call out not only the impact of colonialism in the U.S., but the entire continent.

Why it won: The Entertainment Lions for Music jury, led by BBH U.S. CEO Amani Duncan, were enthusiastic in their choice to not recognize the work with the most views or the most famous artist, but that’s an emblem of the state of emotional extremes felt day-to-day in the current political climate.

“It is not the obvious choice, but it’s the right choice,” said Duncan, later adding, “It made us think about the world at large. We all have different lens and views … Just imagine that if a two-hour conversation amongst basically strangers could catapult a relatively unknown body of work to the Grand Prix at Cannes—just imagine what the world could do and how different could be with just a little bit more empathy, a little bit more tolerance, a little bit more understanding and a lot more conversation.”

Controversy or clear winner? Duncan said the category had an altogether different frontrunner, one more representative of its typical recipients, until a last-minute question from Netflix’s Angel Lee, a member of the Music jury, spun into a multi-hour conversation that confirmed “This Is Not America” as the winner. The question presented was, according to Duncan, “Is this outside the parameters of the Unstereotype Alliance?” a reference to the judging guidelines established in 2019 to not recognize work that perpetuates stereotypes and inequalities.

“Does this promote hate speech? And that was the moment that started the conversation,” said Duncan, exemplifying her earlier comments about the change conversation can inspire—and take a piece of work not previously in serious contention from the bottom to the top. [. . .]

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