Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé is more than a concert film. It’s an intimate look behind the scenes of the singer’s journey to the Indio, California stage, where she became Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival’s first black female headliner in 2018 -- a historic feat that was delayed by a year, after Beyoncé became pregnant with twins and had to cancel her previously scheduled headlining appearance.
But the expansion of her family -- also detailed in this film -- did not slow her down. In fact, it was just an added challenge for the 37-year-old singer, who gave birth to Rumi and Sir Carter on June 13, 2017 and was performance ready by April 14, 2018 -- only 10 months later -- when she appeared on stage at Coachella for the first of two headlining performances.
“It’s my first time back home, on the stage, after giving birth. I’m creating my own homecoming. And it’s hard,” Beyoncé says. “There were days I never thought I’d be the same.”
Shot in the eight months leading up to the concert, Homecoming details Beyoncé’s emotional and physical transformation as well as what went in to conceptualizing and executing a landmark event that not only recognized African-American visionaries -- Toni Morrison, Alic Walker, Nina Simone, Maya Angelou and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie -- but also celebrated the deep-rooted history of HBCUs (Historically black colleges and universities) in America.
“When I decided to do Coachella instead of me pulling out my flower crown, it was most important that I brought out our culture to Coachella,” says Beyoncé, who juggled dual roles as director of the live performance as well as the Homecoming film. Ultimately, she wanted the performance to look and feel like the battle of the bands. “I grew up seeing those shows and that being the highlight of my year.”
“So, I studied my history, I studied my past and I put every mistake, all of my triumphs, my 22-year career into my two-hour ‘homecoming’ performance,” the singer continues, revealing that she always dreamed of going to a HBCU. Instead, “My college was Destiny's Child. My college was traveling around the world and life was my teacher.”
What followed was a four-month period of band rehearsals with music director Derek Dixie (“The music and the vocals, that's the heartbeat of the show,” Beyoncé says), and then another four months of dance rehearsals with over 150 musicians, dancers and other performers. Many in the cast, it should be noted, are former HBCU students, helping to bring the tradition to life onstage.
“It literally felt like were in our own university and struggling together,” the singer says. “The hours were unbelievable.”
Later, Beyoncé says the entire group did a rehearsal without any music “and just to hear the energy and all the stops and to feel the shaking of the risers on the pyramid, to hear the harmonies live” moved her to her core.
“So many people who are culturally aware and intellectually sound are graduates from historically black colleges and universities, including my father,” she says. “There is something incredibly important about the HBCU experience that must be celebrated and protected.”
In addition to the cast Beyoncé handpicked for the show, her team included her own touring band that’s performed with her for years, her husband JAY-Z, who helps her select some of the marching bands, Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing, who was responsible for the singer’s show-stopping costumes (“Every tiny detail had an intention,” she says), and stylist Marni Senofonte.
In order to coordinate that many people, Beyoncé had three soundstages -- one for the band, one for dancing and a third for her creative staff. “I would go from the one to the next,” she says. “It takes a huge team. It takes a village. And I think we all worked to our limit.”
Later, after revealing that it took months to even script the show, Beyoncé says, “I wanted us to be proud of not only the show, but the process, the struggle. I respect things that take work. I respect things that are built from the ground up.”
What ultimately unfolded onstage was more than hard work, or a concert, or a landmark event. It was a cultural movement forever preserved in a Netflix “film by Beyoncé” and an accompanying album, Homecoming: The Live Album.
“It's hard to believe that after all these years that I was the first African American woman to headline Coachella,” she says. “As a black woman, I used to feel like the world wanted me to stay in my little box. Often, black women feel underestimated.”
Beyoncé concludes by saying, “I feel we made something that made my daughter proud, made my mother proud, made my father proud.”