I am not the biggest Beyoncé fan and I would not count myself as being part of the so-called ‘Beehive’ but no self-respecting gay man would deny not having a fondness for the classics (and the whole of Destiny Child's back catalogue). So it goes without saying that I was not that keen on watching HOMECOMING on NETFLIX but interest overtook my indifference.
There is a creative genius that Beyoncé has that is almost indescribable. As a black woman in the creative industry, she will have to work three times as hard to even begin to gain equality of her peers. So a documentary about her headlining slot at Coachella, the first Black Woman to ever headline the festival in 2018, is vital viewing.
The only problem is this isn’t a documentary. There are a few moments in rehearsal and there are a few voice-overs, done in this rather tedious telephone audio, and there are a few moments with the huge team but that is it.
At over 2 hours long this is more a concert film, that brilliantly splits the performances from each night with some behind the scenes footage but very little else. Even when Beyoncé came back to work after the birth of her twins is only hinted at when this alone is worth a documentary on its own.
It was reported recently that Beyoncé walked out of a meeting with Reebok because she didn’t like the diversity of the people pitching to her, rightly so. Yet there is nothing in the documentary about the discussions she had with Coachella about headlining and being the first African American woman to do so. There are no interviews with Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Janelle Monáe, Tracy Chapman, Rihanna or Queen Latifah.
One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.
- Maya Angelou
The great power of this film is Beyoncé blunt acknowledgement that this opportunity isn’t for her alone it is for all people who have been marginalised, all people who feel that they don’t belong. From quotes from noted African American figures from history, and voices overs from Dr Maya Angelou and Dr Martin Luther King Jr to a sample of Miss Nina Simone enormous care was placed in sharing African American culture, history, performance and style. So one would have thought that interviews with some of the women of colour in music about being excluded from Coachella and festivals like this would have had a lot of substance.
Though Coachella is a young music festival compared to others around the world it has only ever had, at the time Beyoncé performed, 3 women headline the festival. The behind the scenes conversations that must have taken place between the creative team and Coachella would have been gold and really would have made this film heavier and even more important. A simple question I have is 'Why have there only been 3 women headline your festival?' In 2019 Ariane Grande becomes the youngest performer, and 4th female singer to headline the festival. What were the answers Beyoncé got to this as we know she asked this question?
There are also no behind the scenes interviews with Kelly, Michelle, Solange or Jay-Z who all performed at the show. Too little is shared from the creative process and this is where it hurts the film. For the Beehive, they won’t care so much but for me, I wanted to see more. The creative process is only hinted at with some voice-overs and some grainy Instagram-style filter backstage videos which offer about a small percentage of the creativity. There are no interviews with anyone who helped put this show together and there are no interviews with her huge creative team.
Rehearsals took 8 months in total and there used three enormous soundstage’s which is stunning but the audience isn’t privy to this. For this creative process, we hardly get a look into the trials and tribulations which is what makes these types of documentary films so valuable and worth watching. Towards the end of the film, Beyoncé explains that she had a hard in every aspect of the show from ‘selecting all the musicians and dancers’ to the costumes, set design, lighting etc but in the film we get snippets of this and nothing more.
The videos used as the credits roll are far more interesting than the behind the scenes films that are shown in the film and it makes me wonder if Beyoncé might be holding on to the good stuff for a later date as it’s clear that there is far more material that wasn't used that should have been.
Perhaps the two moments in HOMECOMING that stood out to me were the moment Kelly and Michelle started walking along the walkway Beyoncé stayed behind them and made sure they got all the limelight. But the most poignant moment came when Beyoncé thanked ‘all the women’ who came before her, the ‘Thank you ladies’ was a remarkable touching moment. We all stand on the shoulders of great people who help pave the way for the freedom and creative opportunities that allow us to continue their legacy.
Beyoncé is a force to be reckoned with and her Coachella performance will go down in history, this is assured, but HOMECOMING will only serve as a fantastic film that documents her groundbreaking show and very little else. Perhaps the film would be better served if they did not refer to HOMECOMING as a documentary but a concert film as the former makes you want more and the latter makes you appreciate what you have here.