If there’s one thing that’s clear in Beyoncé’s new concert documentary — the referentially titled Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé — it’s that the singer works very, very hard.
Released in theaters on Dec. 1, the almost three-hour-long film follows the native Houstonian on the road this past summer, giving viewers an inside look at both the actual show and what’s going on inside Beyoncé’s head at any given time. (Spoiler alert: A lot!)
The latest in a string of concert films released in theaters in recent months, Renaissance was filmed at several dates along the 56-date sold out tour. The all-stadium Renaissance tour ran from May to October of this year and traversed much of Europe and North America.
A celebration of Beyoncé’s 2022, multi-GRAMMY-award winning record, the Renaissance movie grossed $21 million its first weekend in theaters. Here are six things we took away from watching Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé.
Renaissance Required A Ton Of Manpower & Steel
A few songs into the documentary, Beyoncé relaying her intentions for the film. She wants everyone to see the tour, of course, but she also really wants people to know about just how much went into even getting the tour off the ground. "The beauty is in the process," she said, showing off a massive binder full of different iterations of what the tour’s stage could have looked like.
The actual process of building the show from inception to launch, she said, took about four years. The Renaissance tour also required countless man hours, and not just by her team. The multi-continent tour required stagehands to build the massive screen every night, an army of hair braiders, costumers, makeup artists, dancers, caterers, and drivers.
Renaissance required multiple teams: One for the current show, and two other advance teams working ahead to build one of two additional stages at a stadium down the line. All told, there were 160 vehicles on tour, from semi trucks to buses. And while that might seem like it would cost a fortune, Beyoncé noted that the most expensive part of crafting the tour was the steel required to build a roof over their stage every single night.
That’s part of the reason, Beyoncé said in the film, that she put the crew in reflective silver jumpsuits every single night. She wanted fans to notice them, she says, "because it’s beautiful to see what they do."
Beyoncé Knows Ballroom
Anyone who’s heard the Renaissance album knows that it’s imbued with notes of queer ballroom culture, house music, and the sounds of the ‘70s and ‘80s dance underground. In the movie, Beyoncé relays how she learned about that music as a child thanks to her "Uncle Johnny," one of her mom’s longtime friends.
A Black gay man growing up in the south in the 1950s, Uncle Johnny faced more than his share of hardships, but found relative success through his work in the fashion industry. He crafted many of the early Destiny’s Child costumes, and brought house and ballroom culture into the Knowles' home by playing records.
On the album, Beyoncé pays homage to Uncle Johnny on "Heated," and also shows a photo of him with her mom at the end of the show. In the film, Bey wears her prom dress — which Johnny crafted — and, honestly, it still looks pretty on trend, even after all these years.
Beyond Uncle Johnny, though, it’s clear that Beyoncé has put in the work to know not just the history of ballroom (see: tour MC Kevin JZ Prodigy) but also its present. She pays tribute to Black trans and queer legends like TS Madison, MikeQ, Kevin Aviance and Big Freedia, and gives screen and face time to the Dolls, a group of four performers skilled in voguing and ballroom-style dance. (Side note: If you like Renaissance and you like the work of The Dolls and/or Mike Q, go check out "Legendary," a ballroom reality show that originally aired on HBO Max.)
The Renaissance Tour Had Fashions
Anyone following Beyoncé or members of the Bey Hive on Instagram this year knows that the singer was really turning things out fashion-wise on the Renaissance tour. But seeing all the costumes on the big screen can give you a true sense of the massive size and scope of the show's sartorial vision.
The documentary uses quick cuts during songs to hop from outfit to outfit, and it’s always more jaw-dropping than jarring. Beyoncé not only had multiple outfit changes every show, but she her looks changed throughout the tour. Every dancer (there had to be at least 16) and every member of the band also varied their wardrobe. Each outfit was impeccable, covered in rhinestones, and had to be built to move — and it had to look amazing. And they all did!
Beyoncé Grinds Hard
It should come as no surprise that Beyoncé is incredibly hard-working; only someone with an intense work ethic and extreme talent could have come as far as she has. That said, seeing how intricately involved she is in every little moment of the tour is staggering. For example, she said she’s learned a lot about lighting over the years so that she can work, every single night, to get the lights just how she wants them to be. (With the way her hair blows just so, she must also have a certificate in fan science.) The film shows Bey discussing truss lengths and smoke machines and, after one stage person tells Beyoncé that, no, sorry, they don’t make a support in that length, she comes back at him with, "Actually, i was just looking it up, and they do exist."
Putting aside the fact that being one-upped by Beyoncé would be both humbling and amazing, the fact that she even gets that deep into the nitty-gritty is mind-blowing.
Beyoncé said part of her drive is due to the fact that, because she’s a Black woman, people haven’t always taken her that seriously. People have had a tendency to ignore what she wants or needs, and because of that, she’s had to build up a level of fortitude that would put all of us to shame. Those people might push past or ignore her requests, but she’ll keep asking — and then she’ll start telling. "Eventually," she says, "they realize ‘this bitch will not give up.’"
All that grinding has taken a toll on the singer, though. She had knee surgery not too long ago, and she had to rehab extra hard to get ready for the tour. (She still grits through pain at points.) She also gets regular massages on the road, and she probably sleeps much less than she actually needs to.
11-Year-Old Blue Ivy Is Getting Ready To Rule
In one of the first glimpses we get of Beyoncé and Jay-Z's daughter in the movie, Blue Ivy is sitting behind her mom at tech rehearsals. It’s clear that Blue is taking it all in and knows she's studying at the feet of masters (her parents), preparing to take over the world of popular music.
A lot was made about Blue Ivy’s appearances on stage during the Renaissance tour — and for good reason. The decision to put Blue on stage wasn’t made lightly. Beyoncé said she always felt like a stadium stage wasn’t an appropriate place for an 11 year old, but eventually made an agreement with her daughter that, if she rehearsed hard with the dance team and put in the work, that she could do one show.
When that show went great, and then she was on the whole rest of the run. Fans in the audience held signs up singing her praises; people waited to see what she’d wear. And as Beyoncé said in the film, the tour lit a spark and set Blue's work ethic into high gear. While it’s still too early to tell what that’s really going to be, whatever it is will undoubtedly be a very big deal.
Renaissance Is For The Fans
While Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé is, at its core, a film about Beyoncé doing a tour and singing a bunch of songs, it’s also clearly a love letter to Beyoncé’s fans.
The Bey Hive feature very prominently in the film: There are hundreds of shots of people dancing, screaming, crying, or gawking in the audience. The documentary offers loving looks at the queer fans in the audience, the Black fans in the audience, and the people who really went all out on their outfits.
That adoration extended into the movie theater, too. At a Los Angeles screening, attendees dressed all in silver and clapped after every song. They even brought their kids, who they wanted to experience the Renaissance.
As Beyoncé says in the movie, in doing the Renaissance tour, she wanted to create a "cycle of pure love" or a "transfer of energy" between her in the audience, where she’d give them everything she had, and they’d give their all to her. That goal translated to the movie, which sounded great in the theater and had everyone in awe of Bey's artistry. Beyoncé, clearly, is an artist and a visionary and Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé is one reminder of her genius.
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