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‘Atlanta’ Director Hiro Murai is FX’s Secret Weapon

Where to Stream

Atlanta

We’re living in a streaming world full of creative cliques. HBO has the Duplass brothers as well as exclusive deals with Larry David and Bill Simmons. Amazon has Jill Soloway. Netflix is the king of collecting talent, having projects from everyone from Adam Sandler to Joe Swanberg. FX has continued this trend through partnerships with Ryan Murphy, Noah Hawley, and Donald Glover, but there’s one member of FX’s creative crew that deserves far more attention than he gets — Atlanta director Hiro Murai.

Whereas other networks typically recruit well-known directors, writers, and actors to be their creative darlings, FX does things a bit differently to the network’s benefit. No one knew Rob McElHenney when he started pitching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Louis C.K. was still a rising comedian when he was given complete creative control of Louie. Noah Hawley, who is responsible for creating both Fargo and Legion, was primarily known for writing on Bones before he took on the Coen brothers adaptation. To date, Donald Glover has been one of FX’s best known collaborators, and even then Glover was only really known in select circles. Murai entered the television scene with even less prominence than Louis C.K., Hawley, or Glover, but the director has already started to revolutionize the TV landscape in his own subtly powerful way.

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A longtime collaborator with Glover on his work as Childish Gambino, Murai is primarily known for directing music videos. He’s worked on projects with everyone from Earl Sweatshirt and Flying Lotus to The Fray and Queens of the Stone Age. Glover may get most of the credit for the jaw-droppingly excellent Atlanta, but it’s Murai who was largely responsible for Atlanta’s expansive and dream-like tone. Of the show’s 10 episodes, Murai directed seven of them, including the painful and confusing commentary on police violence and feeling lost that is “The Jacket” and the now infamous black Justin Bieber episode, “Nobody Beats the Biebs.” It’s not just Atlanta’s off-kilter writing, listless characters, and bizarre background jokes that make the series so remarkable. It’s the way Earn (Glover) and Paper Boi’s (Brian Tyree Henry) story is captured, with an expansive depiction of this world balanced with an open-palmed portrayal of the bizarre. This duality is both beautiful and odd, often exploring complicated topics connected to race and identity against deceptively simplistic backdrops. You can especially see this duality in Childish Gambino’s music video for “Sweatpants.”

Murai would already be remarkable if he was only known for directing arguably the greatest comedy of 2016, but the director’s work has expanded to include other FX shows. He directed one of the weirdest and most dream-like episodes of the trippiest show on TV, Legion’s “Chapter 6,” and he’s responsible for directing the first episode of Snowfall that really nails the series’ rambling uncertainty, Episode 4, “Trauma.” With the Emmys approaching, Atlanta and Donald Glover are about to get even more deserved attention. However, we need to take a moment to remember the aesthetic genius behind this brilliant show as well as the name that is making prestige TV even more unusual and introspective. We all need to appreciate Hiro Murai.

Where to stream Atlanta

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