WEEK 4: Beyonce: Year of 4

Beyonce: Year of 4 21mins 42secs 

Beyonce: Year of 4, directed by Ed Burke and Beyonce Knowles, documents the artistic process of superstar Beyonce Knowles as she prepares for the launch of her 4th album “4”, which topped the charts in 2011. The film shows the process of Beyonce recording the songs, album photo shoots, music video shoots as well as snippets from her personal life, feelings about her craft and how she intends to execute her artistic vision for her album.

The film employs a combination of documentary conventions, modes and techniques. There were interviews with Knowles and members of her staff, fulfilling the interview driven documentary film convention. Some scenes were shot by her, and a good bit of the documentary was narrated by Knowles herself, fulfilling Grierson’s narration driven documentary. I would also consider the film to be participatory as Knowles, one of the directors, appears on screen and plays an active role in the activities on screen since it revolves around her life.

What I appreciate most about this film is how up close, personal, and intimate it was. Often times, Beyonce is very private and she does not expose herself to the public on a deep and personal level. As a result, seeing her open up on screen, and reveal information about herself, feelings towards her art, the people she works with, her work ethic and process and even relationship with her family and husband was amusing to me. This intimacy is showed through the clips where Beyonce filmed herself, as well as moments where the cinematographer, Ed Burke shot her interacting with either herself, or others, from hidden angles. She was also vulnerable on screen to the point of tears. For example, in the parts of the documentary where she was interacting with the African dance group called Tofu Tofu who she flew in to help her choreograph dances for her top single “Run The World”, as they made their departure, she broke down in tears and we were allowed to see how sensitive she is and how genuine her interaction with the people she works with is. Such moments were accompanied by instrumental ballads from the album to heighten the emotions and it was quite effective.

In terms of cinematography, some shots were well planned and artistic, for example shots from the interviews and some establishing shots. Others were more spontaneous and resembled shots that one would find in cinema verite type documentaries, with some shots initially out of focus, some shakiness of the camera when maneuvering the space and candid moments. The latter however was not distracting, but added some authenticity to the film.

All in all, I really appreciated and was definitely inspired by this documentary. I was amused and motivated by how hard working ans sensitive Beyonce is and was intrigued by the fact that she allowed the at such a vulnerable world to see her in such a vulnerable state. I’m definitely looking forward to more documentaries and candid moments like these from her.


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