Cruel Summer is a short film by American musician Kanye West. Produced by Good Company and Jonathan Lia, the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and was shown out of competition.
A custom pyramid-shaped screening pavilion was constructed for the film's debut, designed by conceptual firms DONDA, OMA and 2x4. The theater featured seven screens - three in the front, one on the floor, one on the ceiling and one on both the right and left side of the space, the concept was inspired by Burberry's immersive Beijing show in 2011, the previous year, which featured eight screens, three in the front and back, one on both left and right and one on the ceiling. Cruel Summer was shot using a specialized camera rig, which allowed the directors to capture multiple angles simultaneously. This style of filming and screening a movie has since become known as the "Seven Screen Experience".
The film is inspired by the album of the same name by West's record label GOOD Music. It has been described as a "fusion of short film and art", with the LA Times raving Cruel Summer has a "thumping surround-sound quality that makes a 3-D Michael Bay effort feel like an iPad short." To date, the film has not been released online or through any media platform.
Rafi (Scott Mescudi), a high-end car thief, falls in love with a blind Arabian princess whose father (Ali Suliman) will only allow them to wed if he can pass a series of three challenges. Loosely based on old Arabian folk tales, the story culminates in a final challenge where Rafi must cure the Princess of her blindness in order to gain her companionship.
Emissaries of West's team traveled to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, Qatar in January 2012 to commence initial pre-production. They met with prominent government officials and private executives in each location to secure funding and shooting permits.
It later emerged that "Cruel Summer" would be exclusively shot in Doha, the capital city of Qatar. The project was produced in association with the Doha Film Institute, a cultural and film financing organization chaired by Her Excellency Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, a member of Qatar's royal family and daughter of the ruling Emir, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.
Sarah A., a first time Qatari actress played the female lead in "Cruel Summer". Never before has a Qatari woman starred in a movie in the country's history.
Production of the film took place in mid-April, just one month before the movie's premiere during Cannes Film Festival. Post-production and editing subsequently occurred in New York City.
West described the seven-screen project as an attempt to "change entertainment experiences. Like if McQueen or Tarsem was to meet the entertainment value of Cirque du Soleil or Walt Disney."
It related to a post-Steve Jobs, post-Windows era, where we're always on our BlackBerry in a ball game or at the movies ... I was very particular about having the screens separate, where your mind puts the screens back together, the way you put memories together. I'm not the best director in the world, but I had an idea that I thought would be amazing to inspire people, like a dream of one day this being the way people watch movies. You know, Tarantino doing a movie like this or a horror movie like this, animation, 3-D ... in this form that surrounds you. People want to go back and see it more and more because they missed something to their left or to their right, and it feels more like the experience of life.
Cruel Summer received positive reviews. The Hollywood Reporter called the film "groundbreaking" and exclaimed "It turns out Kanye West didn’t just want to make a short film -- he wants to completely change the way movies are watched." The Los Angeles Times wrote the film has "new music from West and a thumping surround-sound quality that makes a 3-D Michael Bay effort feel like an iPad short. "Cruel Summer" was shot with multiple cameras, with each screen offering a different perspective on the action." Rolling Stone commented the piece has "plenty of striking imagery" and praised West's "great visual sense".