Sharing Swagger With The Masses: Our Review of ‘Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé’ on Netflix

Sharing Swagger With The Masses: Our Review of ‘Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé’ on Netflix

Beyoncé performed at Coachella Valley with 100 fellow dancers and musicians last April. It’s a performance that thousands of people experienced live either in person or through streaming services. Copies of that set existed in the dark web, but now, there is both an official album and documentary capturing the whole thing. The album was more accessible by a hair so I’ll write about that first. There are noticeable differences between those rough versions and this final one. The audio itself is cleaner. That’s especially true with the horns, which still adds some necessary flavor to the set. The strings are slightly louder during the songs in the album’s second half. There is also audio of some of the references to other songs that she makes in between her own.

Musicians do covers all the time, but there’s an importance to how Beyoncé does it. Beychella is mostly about her. But since she has access to such a large platform, she might as well expose her audience to the music she loves as well as the music she made. Her mission to share her stage with people who are too black, too gay, too fat, or too skinny is genuine. Some of those people are there with her on that stage, but the camera turns occasionally to those who aren’t on stage with her. These people come from all walks of life, but the camera captures their joy in watching the American singer. They know all the words to the music that gives them swag.

Beyoncé controls the camera which captures the people within it as a massive entity, both on or off the stage. It has its share of wide shots, showing us the crowd. She moves seamlessly within and beyond that stage, a tightrope act on top of an audience that have her back. This is a millennial era concert movie. Half of the audience have their hands up, reaching towards her, while the other have their cellphones in hand. It’s nice to see the lack of judgment towards people having this experience through their phones. In fact, she takes advantage of that subjectivity, occasionally capturing sections of the performance from another angle. She incorporates these perspectives while still making a cohesive film.

This film could have been just the combined live stream of Beyoncé’s two performances. Every three songs also come with an intermission showing how she and her crew spent almost a whole year’s worth of time in rehearsals. These intermissions have a 16mm look. She also lets us hear her speaking voice, a different from her clear vocals during a performance that involves dancing. A voice that, unlike earlier and lighter examples of it, expresses every one of her 36 years. Here she reflects on the fear everyone has about not being able to return to their younger selves. She has the reputation of someone ridiculously superhuman that these voice overs subvert that, revealing a mortal who compels herself to push to her limits.

Most people understand Beyoncé’s compulsion to push herself but that impulse still eludes some people. There’s something inherently relate-able about her struggle to someone like me and other people pursuing the arts. Seeing her sacrifices reminds audiences of the ones they make in their own lives to make themselves and other people happy. This goes beyond jobs in the arts. Most people will complain about the jobs they worked and studied hard enough to get but will do it anyway. And again, her burden is heavier as a black woman, regardless of whether or not she’s a musician. But as a musician, she has to advertise and maintain an aura of youth, to be consistent without boring even the most loyal of her fans.


One of the other things Beyoncé mentions during the intermissions are her options while performing at Coachella. She considers putting on a flower crown, which is something I’ve seen and wouldn’t mind seeing a version of. Maybe a criticism of the peace and love era that overpriced music festivals have would have been facile. Instead of assimilating, she presents an alternative version of herself who did go to a Historically Black University of College. She’s a wife and a mother now, But she builds a professional rapport with the fellow performers who either go to HBUCs or want to go to one. They’re all working for a final product, bringing a mostly white crowd into the intensity of a college culture only a few people have experienced.

Beyoncé has many fans, and full disclosure, I am one of them, but I feel disappointment towards people who won’t give her film a chance. Some of her detractors have complained about her use of Greek lettering, as if that’s a valid complain. Most universities have used fraternity culture to promote racism and sexism. But in showcasing fraternity culture within HBUCs, she used those oppressive institutions as organizations of artistic expression. And that artistic expression reflects in the motion picture form. Comparing her work to a white male filmmakers seem trite. The 16mm footage evokes Pennebaker’s Monterey Pop. But this is, unmistakably, her own concert film that she forged with her community, one that deserves a spotlight.

  • Release Date: 4/17/2019
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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