Essays · TV

The Staggering Cadre of Diverse Filmmakers Behind Beyoncé’s Lemonade

Beyoncé’s Lemonade was a force of nature, but it took a village to make it happen.
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By  · Published on April 23rd, 2016

Over the next few days, many words will be written about Lemonade, the HBO music video/film/special hybrid event from Beyoncé. I’m certain that more attuned, appropriate, and interesting writers will pull apart the themes of this vibrant, poetic hour-long special. There are many layers to what Beyoncé is saying with this work, far beyond simply providing a launchpad for her latest album, which debuted on TIDAL this evening, as well.

Lemonade is a fierce work of art. A deeply personal, yet wholly accessible piece of entertainment activism that tackles personal demons, identity, and strength. It’s a hell of a thing. And it’s going to spawn endless think pieces about what it all means. Did Jay Z cheat on Beyoncé? Is this some revealing piece of art rooted in her life? Or is it simply a brilliant spin to drive album sales? Regardless of its deeper meaning, it’s a beautiful work.

I loved every minute of what Beyoncé was laying down. In part because it is one of the most unapologetic pieces of entertainment I’ve seen this year, but also because it was technically excellent filmmaking. Gorgeous cinematography paints the pictures over beautiful poetry, juxtaposed with an elegantly edited set of music videos. The musical collaboration — which includes the likes of The Weeknd, Jack White, James Blake, and Kendrick Lamar — is impressive. The collaboration on the visual end is equally impressive in both the quality of the work and the diversity of the team.

Among the directors is Khalil Joseph, a music video director who directed Kendrick Lamar’s 15-minute long video, “m.A.A.d.” He partnered again with Lamar for a Sundance installation called “Double Conscience,” which played at this past year’s festival. His most notable work is the 2013 short film “Until the Quiet Comes,” made with Flying Lotus:

Melina Matsoukas is an NYU and AFI grad who previously directed Beyoncé’s “Formation” video.

Dikayl Rimmasch is the filmmaker behind the Jay Z and Beyoncé short film/video “Bang Bang” from 2014. He is credited on Lemonade as both a director and cinematographer.

Jonas Åkerlund is a legendary Swedish music video director, known for directing Madonna’s “Ray of Light” video. He also collaborated with Beyoncé and Jay Z for the documentary version of their On the Run Tour.

One Hour Photo and Never Let Me Go director Mark Romanek is credited with making the “Sandcastles” segment of Lemonade, one of the most intimate sections of the film involving Beyoncé and Jay Z. This is a collaboration with cinematographer Reed Morano, who just finished work on HBO’s Vinyl and made her directorial debut with the Olivia Wilde-led film Meadowland last year.

The other cinematographers involved in Lemonade include Chayse Irvin, best known for his work on the 2012 horror anthology The ABCs of Death, and up-and-coming photographer/music video cinematographer Khalik Allah. Others include commercial cinematographer Santiago Gonzalez, He Got Game cinematographer Malik Sayeed, and commercial cinematographer/photographer Par Ekberg.

These are the kinds of names film fans should know as they are clearly talented enough to make the jump to short and feature films. These are the kinds of names that pop up at film festivals in the years to come. Names like production designer JC Molina, whose work can also be found in the Joseph Kahn-directed short film Power/Rangers. Or production designer Hannah Beachler, whose 2015 credits include both Miles Ahead and Creed. Ethan Tobman, the production designer behind the 2016 Oscar darling Room, can also be found among Lemonade’s credits. As can The Village production designer Tom Foden, and Jason Hougaard, who served as supervising art director on the upcoming Drake Doremus film Equals.

There’s a reason why Beyoncé’s special looks and moves like artful cinema: there’s a team of talented artists behind her.

Of course, the most prominent names in the credits are that of Beyoncé Knowles Carter, who serves as Executive Producer, Director, Writer, and All-Encompassing Queen. The other big name is Somali-British poet Warsan Shire, who is credited with “Film Adaptation and Poetry.” Her powerful poetry can also be found in the short film Remnants 2 Bile, which she wrote and narrated:

So tonight, we owe homage to Beyoncé, a force of nature in the world of art and entertainment. There is no equal to her talent, marketability, and fierce innovative spirit. But we also owe some respect to the team of filmmakers — some established, some on the rise — who made Lemonade come to life.

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)