Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé
WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Homecoming presents an intimate look at Beyoncé’s historic 2018 Coachella performance that paid homage to America's historically black colleges and universities. Interspersed with candid footage and interviews detailing the preparation and powerful intent behind her vision, Homecoming traces the emotional road from creative concept to cultural movement.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
In the days leading up to the release of Beyoncé's Homecoming, I grappled with my obsession with the woman who – for 22 years – has changed the face of pop culture as we know it.
Why do I care that she spent eight months prepping for a festival show? Why did I fly over thirty hours to see that festival show in person? There is a part of me that feared it was my emptiness that made it so easy to be full of devotion for Beyoncé. The answers I found in Homecoming were multi-layered and more significant than me.
In this concert documentary, we learn that Homecoming was not only an essay about African American culture but also an attempt by the 37-year-old to represent anyone who has ever felt on the periphery of western hegemonic discourse and its offshoot: modern pop culture.
An essential definition of a term used throughout the film: Historically black colleges and universities (referred to as HBCUs) are institutions of higher education in America. The schools were established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to serve the African-American community primarily.
Throughout the film, Beyoncé uses the words of prominent black academics to emphasise the thread of the importance of representation running throughout Homecoming, and I will use some of those quotes too as I believe that is important to unpack.
"You can’t be what you can’t see" — Marian Wright Edelman; the founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund who graduated from HBCU Spellman College in 1959.
Homecoming extends Edelman's point by showing viewers the level of excellence that Beyoncé expected not only from herself but the entire cast and crew behind-the-scenes interlaced with footage of crowd and the singer's children. To me, the direct implication editing like that is: seeing a stage full of 200 people excelling of all races and shapes shows not only the youth but all viewers what can be done. I believe this relates to the following quote: "The youth need to see greatness reflected in our eyes. Go forth, let them know it’s real", from Black Panther actress, Danai Gurira which is also used in the film.
"Without community, there is no liberation" — Audre Lorde; renowned writer and civil rights activist.
The magic of seeing yourself on screen is magnified by sharing that experience with others like you, because of the sense of community. The only thing I can liken it to is being at Cape Town Carnival or Tweede Nuwe Jaar and hearing the sound of the Cape Minstrels. It gives me goosebumps because it makes me feel like I am a part of something bigger than me. That's not saying I don't find anything problematic about being a member of a community that has not always accepted my queer, disabled body but to say I saw them in the group of people on stage with Beyoncé wearing brightly coloured outfits with drums, trumpets and synchronised marches.
"What I really want to do is be a representative of my race, of the human race." – Maya Angelou
To be the first person of colour to do anything comes enough pressure to break anyone. The critique can be harsh and truly unforgiving, because with a title like that comes the knowledge that if you mess up, there might not be a second person of colour to do, whatever it is that you tried to do, for a very long time. By creating Homecoming Beyoncé not only exceeded all expectation because she pushed herself to, in full knowledge of her role in history. In one quote she says: "I definitely pushed myself further than I knew I could, and I’ve learned a very valuable lesson, I will never, never push myself that far again."
"We’ll Revisit Beyoncé's Coachella Performance for the Rest of Our Lives" - Vulture's Craig Jenkins
At the end of Homecoming, I knew that my obsession with Beyoncé exists because she shows me parts of me and my experience that make me feel good. Homecoming was more than a good performance; it was a cultural touchstone moment as me and almost everyone else who has unpacked it will tell you.
"I feel we made something that made my daughter proud, made my mother proud, my father proud, and all of the people that are my brothers and sisters around the world and that's why I live" - Beyoncé.