Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé [Review]

My daughter, Anuradha is a diehard fan of Beyoncé and her thrill when she managed to get a ticket to see her perform live in London a few years ago was beyond me! So, when I saw Netflix, my streaming platform of choice, recommend Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé, a 137-minute-long documentary of her celebrated 2018 Coachella performance, I clicked to watch the film.

Netflix describes Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé as follows:

“This intimate, in-depth look at Beyoncé’s celebrated 2018 Coachella performance reveals the emotional road from creative concept to cultural movement”.

The star is Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and 200 plus dancers and musicians. Beyoncé is also the writer, director, and producer of this monumental documentary! The concert film was released on Netflix this month.

There is so much I came to learn about this young, powerful, energetic, creative black woman, her passion, and her purpose. The audience follows her as she assembles the vast cast of musicians and dancers, the enduring rehearsals, the set design, costumes, lights, sounds. Her attention to detail is impeccable.

Like her audience, she holds her cast and crew in the palm of her hand, commands their respect while gently pushing them for perfection. Homecoming is directed and performed to the rhythm of her soul. It is a joyful celebration to watch and to experience.

In the film, I learn that she is a family woman, a mother of three children, the pain of giving birth to twins in 2017 and the uphill road to recover herself, her body as she prepared for Coachella 2018.

Throughout the film, there are familiar quotes from notable black creatives and intellectuals like WEB DuBois, Nina Simone, Ton Morrison, and Audre Lorde. Lorde said in a speech delivered 40 years ago “Without community, there is no liberation” and in Homecoming Beyoncé brings this community together and shows us what is possible.

She pays tribute to America’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) and their musical heritage. Her lifelong dream had been to attend an HBCU but instead her college was Destiny’s Child she says.

“My college was travelling around the world, and life was my teacher”.

The entire set, stage and costumes of bright yellow and pink hoodies is a homage to the rich culture and vibrant aesthetic of these great institutions.

Several times from the stage, she thanks the organisers for inviting a black woman to headline Coachella!

At this point I must admit, I had never heard of Coachella: Woodstock, Glastonbury, Isle of Wight, SXSW, O2 Centre and many more across India and the African continent yes, but not Coachella.

So, imagine my surprise when I discovered that The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is an annual festival which has been around since 1999, cofounder by two entrepreneurs Paul Tollett and Rick Van Santen.

That in 2017, it attracted over 250,000 people and grossed $114.6 million over two weekends. The figures for 2018 were not available but I am sure Beyoncé with her monumental performance of Homecoming will have exceed both figures. I am happy that a black woman finally got to headline Coachella but was left wondering why did it take so long?

Watching Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé, you can feel she is on a mission. A mission so great that she turns to Maya Angelou to give expression to this mission and we hear her voice over black and white rehearsal footage towards the end of the documentary,

“What I really want to do is to be a representative of my race. I know that when I’m finished doing what I’m sent here to do, I will be called home”.

With Homecoming, Beyoncé not only gave a career defining performance but a message to all of us to take pride in who you are. This film should be mandatory viewing in schools, colleges, universities around the world.

With Netflix’s Homecoming, we are now also witnessing a new genre: Concert Film, big, bold, and utterly entertaining. Throughout the 137 minutes of Homecoming, I was so immersed and captivated by the performance that I felt as if I was at the concert.

Netflix’s Homecoming has set a new precedent and they are following this up with the release of Amazing Grace – the concert film of Aretha Franklin’s gospel album on 10th May. This follows release of Bruce Springsteen’s Springsteen on Broadway last December which is another Netflix original you must watch.

In January, Netflix announced that Martin Scorsese’s will direct a documentary about Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue Tour for release later this year. Netflix is leading the resurgence in concert films, it’s an inexpensive way of getting impressive footage for content without incurring the costs of producing live music events. In the case of Beyoncé, she was also giving the creative control over her concert film where she is credited as executive producer and music director.

I look forward to watching Concert Films on some of my all-time favourite artists like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Fela Kuti from his shrine in Lagos and many more from across the African continent, Latin America, and Asia.

Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé is available on Netflix. Enjoy and share your reviews. 

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