Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé is a comprehensive and impactful portrait of a cultural icon making history.
Far from being a film by, about, starring and in celebration of Beyoncé, Netflix’s Homecoming is many things more. It’s a concert film, too, but also a documentary, a portrait of an icon who has achieved a level of celebrity and influence that is virtually indistinguishable from that of a real-life goddess, and a celebration of black history and culture that is about as comprehensive and impactful as such a thing could possibly be. If nothing else, Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé is a testament to a history-making career that has, in many ways, never just been about the music.
That having been said, Homecoming is still very much about the music. Shot over eight months, the project offers a behind-the-scenes look at Beyoncé’s headlining of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival last year — the first black woman to ever do so in its twenty-year existence. The two weekend performances — dubbed “Beychella” by Beyoncé’s devoted fanbase the “Beyhive” — immediately made history and cemented the performer as an all-time musical icon, but Homecoming isn’t content to just allow that performance to be enjoyed on its own merits. The film makes an effort to showcase Beyoncé not just as a musician but as a woman, particularly a black woman, one with an awareness of and appreciation for the black experience.
As such, the performances — as well as including appearances from Beyoncé’s sister Solange and her husband Jay-Z — also strongly featured a marching band, dancers and other performers from historically black colleges and universities (HBCU), and Homecoming includes snippets from famous black intellectuals and personalities. The sense is never of just a performance, much less a self-serving one; the whole thing is nakedly an enthusiastic tribute, a celebration, designed from the ground up — mostly by Beyoncé herself in the fashion of an admirable but borderline neurotic genius taskmaster — to pay tribute to everything that Beyoncé as a performer represents.
Homecoming is also personal, including snippets of an audio diary that offers insight into Beyoncé’s seemingly impenetrable mindset, especially after the recent birth of her twins, Rumi and Sir, and her lingering anxieties over perhaps never being able to regain the physical and emotional strength she had before. Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé suggests she’s needn’t have worried. It’s a proud celebration of an unapologetic, historic and masterful performance. As Beyoncé’s own mother Tina Knowles Lawson said, that stage will perhaps never be the same again.