‘Homecoming’ documentary pays homage to black college experience

Kamari Esquerra

A year ago, Beyoncé made history with her groundbreaking Coachella performance, bringing the black experience to the annual music festival that attracts predominantly white audiences.

On April 17, Netflix released “Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé.” In addition to providing fans with a behind-the-scenes look at the artist’s preparations for Coachella, colloquially known as Beychella, “Homecoming” also highlighted the performance’s celebration of African American culture.

“Homecoming” highlights the process of integrating creative concept and cultural movement to commemorate historically black colleges and universities. As the first African American Coachella headliner, Beyoncé ensured the African American community, which has extensive influence on the music industry, was represented. Instead of pulling out her flower crown, Bey said it was important to bring black culture to Coachella.

The two-hour long performance featured a predominantly black cast of orchestra and drumline members, dancers, steppers and vocalists. Even some of the most popular songs from her 22-year career, such as “Crazy in Love” and “Deja Vu” were mixed with the sounds of black college orchestras and drumlines. Bey strayed away from traditional performance dance styles to focus on styles important to black culture. Step, a form of percussive dance in which the entire body is used to produce complex rhythm and sounds through a mixture of footsteps, hand claps and spoken words, was included throughout the performance.

From beginning to end, the film exemplifies blackness — black culture, black power and black excellence. From the empowering words of Nina Simone and Maya Angelou to the rendition of the “black national anthem” “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the sounds and sights of black bodies being authentically and unapologetically black in a predominantly white space is momentous. “Homecoming” not only celebrates HBCUs, but also inspires black students at predominantly white institutions to express their blackness in white spaces.

“Homecoming” resonates with any African American who has never seen themselves represented or celebrated. The film not only makes room at the table for them, but invites them to sit and eat, as well.

“Homecoming” not only gives audiences a cultural movement, but encourages them to work hard. The film walks us through Beyoncé’s recovery from health issues related to pregnancy and the process of retraining her body to perform at its usual level. Audiences are able to experience a vulnerable side of Beyoncé that she rarely shares. She is labeled one of the hardest working entertainers in the music industry, and the film accurately portrays that, through rehearsal footage, creative processes and cast and crew meetings.

Although “Homecoming” is not a traditional documentary that provides completely in-depth coverage, the vague details included in the film still carry out the overall narrative. After all, this is Beyoncé, one of the most private celebrities. She will release just enough information for her fans to understand the bigger picture.

In her usual fashion, Beyoncé surprised fans with a live album of her Beychella performance to go along with the documentary. The album includes 40 tracks, including two bonus tracks, one which features her 7-year-old daughter Blue Ivy and a rendition of “Before I Let Go,” which is sure to be played at the next cookout. Beyoncé gives fans options on how they want to experience Beychella.

‘Homecoming” is a commemoration to traditional HBCU homecoming celebrations, highlighting the influence of black culture. It shows the best people to express black culture are black people.

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Rating: 5 out of 5