Homecoming A film by Beyoncé director: Beyonce
Homecoming A film by Beyoncé cast: Beyonce, Blue Ivy Carter, Jay Z
Homecoming A film by Beyoncé rating: 4 stars
For the last 20 years, the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, has witnessed Coachella, one of the biggest and popular music festivals in the world, a space where festival-goers flock from all over the world to watch and stand in percipience, listening to their people — artistes whose verses through pop, rock, rap and jazz among others, have become philosophies to live by. But for the 19 of those 20 years, the headliner at Coachella was never a black artiste. And that’s what made the 2018 Coachella, the 20th edition, special. It had Beyonce Knowles-Carter at the helm of affairs, and in one of the most notable and defining concerts of our times, pop’s reigning goddess turned her concerts (two over two weekends) into a cultural revolution of sorts. The grounds became a college, where she taught of black identity and celebrated black expression.
Sprinkled with quotes by significant names — WEB DuBois, Nina Simone, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and Alice Walker, the song list performed alongside a live brass orchestra and sharp, staccato drum rolls of snare drums, created a college experience that was unifying through music — a powerful narrative that was as provocative as it was powerful for the 2,50,000 present, shouting, screaming, crying, singing along every verse, sigh, and sound. There were tears shed when she sang Lift every voice and sing, the black national anthem, and merged it with her piece, Freedom.
Beyonce didn’t want the concert experience of Coachella limited to those who were there and ones who streamed it live. She knew the enormity of the chord she’ll strike. So she decided to turn it into Homecoming, a Netflix documentary, that’s part biographical and part a concert film. Released alongside a live album and close to 2019 Coachella, it combines glimpses from her rehearsals with that of the live stage sessions from the extraordinary concerts. It documents the blood, sweat, and grime that went into the production. “I respect things that are built from the ground up… I am super specific about every detail,” she says in the voiceover that tells us about every patch sewed, every move danced over and over, Beyonce’s exacting yet loving demands from her “family” — everyone who’s a part of the concert — and a year-long preparation coming at the back of delivering twins post a complicated pregnancy. All of it shows on stage, where a pyramid-like structure holds the musicians and dancers.
The concert by itself is explosive. It opens with Crazy in love, with Beyonce strutting around in her crown and soon enough, she lets it rip. Every song presented, mostly from her last two albums, Lemonade and Beyonce, and some from her long 22-year-career has been reinvented and reinterpreted brilliantly. There are collaborations with husband Jay Z and a reunion with Kelly Rowlands and Michelle Williams for All the single ladies. The footage is mixed from two Coachella concerts in different costumes. But at every nano-second, you see the precision of everything — everyone is in the exact same spot, at a particular time, unified, co-ordinated. “I will never, never push myself that far again,” she says in the film.
Beyonce lets the viewers into her life just a little, keeps them focussed on her as a performer in an effort to archive herself. The slight issue is for those who aren’t Beyonce people, for whom her music isn’t everything. For them, the grainy allowance into her life, may just be too little to know her soul.
“Without community, there’s no liberation,” said American writer and civil rights activist Audrey Lorde 40 years ago in a speech. Beyonce creates that community through Coachella and takes everyone on the path to cultural revolution with visual and aural communion. “Instead of me pulling out my flower crown, it was more important that I brought our culture to Coachella,” she says in the film. She slayed. No wonder they are calling it Beychella.