I expected Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé to be amazing. I saw clips of the Renaissance tour on TikTok, and Beyoncé has about 26 years in the music industry; it’s a guarantee she is going to give an amazing performance. I wasn’t one of the fortunate souls who were able to see her live in concert and I was feeling grateful that I could at least see the full concert in a theater with other Beyoncé fans. What I didn’t expect was to leave the theater feeling renewed, but also exhausted because I felt like I was in the stadium with the concertgoers I saw on the screen.
A debate I had in my mind was whether I should be a good movie-goer with decorum and remain silent in my seat. In the theater, the other movie-goers had that same idea in mind, but as we went through each song it was harder to keep this up. First, you could see feet wiggling in their recliner seats, then singing along, and finally, some joy screaming at the screen as if Beyoncé could hear us. Some people even leaped out of their seats and started dancing.
This is the effect of the Renaissance experience; you can’t help but exclaim and join the fun. That’s what Beyoncé’s goal was. The Renaissance album, tour, and now this film is a collection of works that represents an escapist world that Beyoncé created. A world where you are free to be Black and/or gay and be loud and proud of it, you can be a sex kitten and a boss, or a mother and a musician. You can say who you are and people will honor you and respect you. The Renaissance world is where hard-working people get the acknowledgment and the flowers they deserve, and we spread joy wherever we go. This world is represented in the music and the behind-the-scenes stories of Renaissance.
Uncle Jonny, House Music, and Ballroom
The Renaissance album is inspired by house music, the music that was the soundtrack of Beyoncé’s life with her Uncle Jonny. House music is from Black queer culture and Uncle Jonny introduced Beyoncé to it. In the Renaissance album, Beyoncé includes icons from the scene on the tracks. She includes samples of underground drag legends Kevin Aviance and Moi Renee and has appearances by Ts Madison and Big Freedia. To introduce the topic of her Uncle, we see her wearing the dress he made her for prom. Uncle Jonny grew up with his aunt Tina Knowles, Beyoncé’s fashion-designing mother, with a shared love of fashion. They created clothes together and when Ms. Tina had Beyoncé and Solange, Uncle Jonny helped raise the girls and he was playing house music while doing it. Ms. Tina during this part of the documentary said, “I think fashion saved my family’s life.” Fashion served as a place for Uncle Jonny to express himself during a time when it was even harder to be a Black gay man.
Beyoncé also pays homage to a legend in the ballroom scene, Kevin JZ Prodigy. Kevin’s distinct voice is well known in the ballroom space and Beyoncé asked him to be “the heartbeat” of the show, to be a commentator/narrator. Kevin’s introduction to the concert “Welcome to Mother’s Mind,” perfectly captures that the show is going to transport the audience into this new world. This was Kevin’s first time being in the mainstream. Many of Beyoncés’ dancers also come from the world of ballroom and voguing, and Beyoncé gave them space to showcase their talent to a larger audience. Being that Beyoncé isn’t queer herself, it’s meaningful when someone of her status takes the time in her tour and film to give the ballroom scene and Black gay culture the acknowledgment that has been long awaited.
Beyonce is a Boss, Mother, Performer, and Sexy Woman
Towards the beginning of the show, Beyoncé acknowledges the work of her crew members on the tour. She said it took several years to build the set and in the film, we can see a construction crew building a complicated set. Beyoncé wanted the crew members who are moving things throughout the show to wear reflective gear, so the audience could see them. She finds the process of making the tour happen fascinating and wants her fans to see the other people involved.
During this section of the show, we also see Beyoncé being a hardworking boss, which requires her to put her foot down and talk to men on the tech side who don’t expect her to know things. Beyoncé talked about feeling that as a Black woman, someone is always trying to challenge her and make things difficult for her. Beyoncé is knowledgeable about lighting design and there are several clips in the film where she is describing how she wants the lights to look on stage. There is even a scene where one of the lighting designers was telling her the light she wanted didn’t exist, but she googled it and found that it does. It’s quite empowering to see a woman take control like that, even if it is a celebrity who seems so unfamiliar to the average woman.
Beyoncé also shows us her being softer with her kids, friends, and family, while also expressing the sexual side of herself in her performance. She says she is not responsible for who appears onstage, she lets herself be free and express it all. All sides are a part of who she is and she embraces them all.
Beyoncé Uplifting People
A huge element of the Renaissance world that Beyoncé evokes is how she uplifts the people around her. Beyoncés trumpeter Crystal Torres found out she was pregnant while they were prepping for the tour, and Beyoncé supported her in staying on. If you see Crystal in every show, you can see Crystal’s baby bump start to grow.
There was a section all about Blue Ivy performing as well. Beyoncé was hesitant to let Blue Ivy dance on tour, she wasn’t sure if Blue was ready to perform in front of a huge stadium. Blue Ivy’s first performance got a lot of criticism, but she kept pushing and improving throughout every show. During the concert which showed the audience holding up blue balloons in support of the young star, we can see Blue Ivy getting emotional as she watched the audience scream in support of her. From that reaction, you can tell the criticism got to her. Beyoncé talked about how she was so proud of her daughter for staying strong and working hard to get to where she is.
Beyoncé also gave credit to Amari Marshall, her dance captain, for being there for Blue Ivy. She even said she couldn’t imagine a better person who could take her daughter under her wing. Amari is even nicknamed Blue Ivy’s “stage momma!” Let’s not forget how important it is to see a curvy, dark-skinned dancer killing every move, and being sexy and free while doing it.
Amari’s brother died while she was on tour, and Beyoncé and the crew supported her by having a moment of silence to pay tribute to her brother.
Summing it Up
If we look purely at the performance, Beyoncé’s out-of-this-world outfits, playful and sexy dancing, and amazing singing you can’t help but be transfixed by the moment. You’re not thinking of anything else. I forgot I was even in a movie theater!
Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé sums up Beyoncé’s mission in trying to give her fans a look into this utopia she created on tour and making her album. There was so much joy, support, and being themselves whole-heartedly in the process. If you want art to inspire you and possibly change you, this is it. Get to the theaters now!