Michael Kiwanuka “Beautiful Life”

Phillip Youmans

Phillip Youmans is at the vanguard of a new generation of filmmakers, moving effortlessly between music videos and commercials, film and tv.  He embraces his bold aesthetic and the unique lens through which he views the world to tell deeply personal stories that speak to universal truths.  His work is magical and poetic, layered and nuanced, observational yet visceral.  He packs an emotional depth with an infectious youthful exuberance in everything he makes. 

Youmans most recently won the Cannes Lions Grand Prix for “Beautiful Life” for Michael Kiwanuka, cementing his place among music video and commercial auteurs. The music video blends poignant storytelling, authentic performances and deft film craft as a celebration of the human spirit, set around a game of Russian roulette.  In addition to winning the Grand Prix, the music video was an Official Selection at SXSW, received a Vimeo Staff Pick, and won Best R&B Music Video at the UKVMA’s, while also being shortlisted at numerous award shows including D&AD, Ciclope, British Arrows, and shots Music Video of the Year.

The New Orleans-raised filmmaker launched his career with his debut feature Burning Cane starring Wendell Pierce at Tribeca, where it won the Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature, Best Cinematography, and also Best Actor for Wendell Pierce. Youmans was the youngest director to feature in the festival and the first Black filmmaker to win the top prize. He also received a nomination for Breakthrough Director at the Gotham Awards and the film was nominated for the John Cassavetes Award at the Film Independent Spirit Awards. Burning Cane was acquired by Ava DuVernay’s Array Now.

Other notable commercials and music videos include “Hometown” for Apple, a piece shot entirely on an iPhone that explores the hometowns of Black photographers, as well as “Interlude” by Michael Kiwanuka, the first collaboration between the filmmaker and musician. 

Phillip Youmans is the next generation of directing talent and proof of the timelessness of cinema. His work is untethered from time but deeply rooted in place. Bringing the same level of intentionality and ambition to every project, the authenticity and vitality Phillip captures on screen is second to none, regardless of the medium.