Beychella. It was April 2018, and the word thrummed around the internet as video clips of Beyoncé dressed as Nefertiti were posted and pulled down.
Everyone who wasn't in the California desert suddenly switched focus. Everyone who was there realized they'd witnessed a historical musical event — the first black woman to headline Coachella bringing her A game and then some.
A year on and we're still talking about Beyoncé's performance, but those of us who didn't brave the dry and dusty plains of the Coachella Valley in the Colorado Desert no longer have to watch snippets recorded on people's phones. Instead we can watch the full show in the comfort of our own homes courtesy of Netflix. And if you don't need the visuals, you can listen on the streaming service of your choice.
The show is captured in high definition for posterity and combines with the rougher footage depicting the painstaking preparation and collaborations that ultimately made it such a triumph. Beyoncé, who wrote, directed and executive produced the movie, wants to show and tell us what her Homecoming performance meant to her.
Threaded through glossy footage of the performance are vignettes of the months-long rehearsal process. In raw, often black and white, behind-the-scenes shots, Beyoncé brings together dancers, singers and a full orchestra, not just to perform behind her, but to co-create a show that celebrates black history and music.
She themed Homecoming around the historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) and pulled her team of performers from their student bodies, channeling their energy and tapping into their experiences.
"When I decided to do Coachella, instead of me pulling out my flower crown, it was more important that I brought our culture to Coachella," she says during a voiceover. "We were able to create a free, safe space where none of us were marginalized."
Bringing a diverse group of people together, getting them to move in harmony with one another while still celebrating their individuality is no easy feat. Our world leaders fail at it every day. But Beyoncé? Yeah, she can do it.
She doesn't make it look it easy and effortless, because it's not. With a face free from makeup and a baseball cap often wedged on her head, the star moves between three sound stages, pulling long hours over many months, switching between the roles of audience member, director, logistics coordinator and performer to ensure every detail is perfect.
For Beyoncé who gave birth to twins by caesarean less than a year before her Coachella, the performance and the rehearsals leading up to it also presented her with a unique physical challenge. Rather than skirting over this, she addresses it directly, talking about the ways she restricted her diet and the discomfort she felt in her stomach muscles as she recovered from the operation while learning the choreography.
The physical strain the performance put on her body was compounded by the challenge of suddenly being a mum to twins in addition to her 6-year-old daughter Blue Ivy. She surrounded herself with family as much as possible — her husband Jay-Z seems to be ever present and also performs on stage with her along with Michelle and Kelly from Destiny's Child and her sister Solange. Blue Ivy too is often dancing away behind the scenes, and proves to be the film's breakout star with her rendition of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" (it's also a bonus track on the album).