The grounds of Destrehan Plantation, turned into a place of communal healing and a celebration of strength through art and expression, the song “Freedom” an emblazoned anthem of resistance, strength, and collective empowerment.
CH. 11 – REDEMPTION
The titlecard, where three young Black girls run through a front door onto a massive lawn toward a white picket fence gate surrounding Madewood Plantation, which earlier represented the idyllic promises of heaven and the American dream.
Two Black women open a curtain to reveal various Black women freely strolling through the grounds at Destrehan Plantation.
Shots of women walking freely on the grounds, sharing a meal and laughing in contrast with those from Chapter 1 at the same setting, where many of the same women were eerily subdued and silent.
Left, a shot of Beyoncé’s feet, a suggestion of modesty and their pose, alike that of a ballerina in point shoes and a suggestion of gentleness; right, a tree adorned with Spanish moss is shown over her shoulder.
Beyoncé sits with hands folded, contemplative; considering the symbolic value of the trees and moss she gazes with the spoken word poetry, “Grandmother, the alchemist,” the suggestion is Beyoncé is contemplating the legacy and spirit of not only her ancestors, but the entirety of ancestral spirit of Black women in America.
Beyoncé with a young girl whose tightly coiled curly hair matches her own; they run their fingers through each other’s, teasing, and smiling, Beyoncé in a maternal role instilling the young girl with a sense of confidence and pride.
Left, overlaid with the poetry “Broke the curse with your own two hands,” a close-up of grandmotherly hands that are revealed to be those of Leah Chase, “The Queen of Creole Cuisine” featured earlier in Lemonade; right, a young girl plays with a doll and the camera pans to reveal Beyoncé behind Ms. Chase, brushing her hair in an act of reverence. Three generations of women smile as they engage in conversation with one another.
Beyoncé stares out from a porch, and the camera cuts to the children running toward the Madewood gate. Perhaps, having become a mother herself, she realizes it is her turn now to pass along the wisdom from her grandmother to the next generation.
Grandmother, the alchemist
JAY-Z’s mother Hattie during a speech at her 90th birthday party, which reveals the meaning of the film’s title: “I had my ups and downs, but I always found the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.”
Left, the lights on the floor reveal the real life context for Hattie’s speech; right, Blue Ivy plays with a boy as they listen to Grandma Hattie deliver her speech.
Cursed lands overcome
Left, the camera traverses the terrain of barren trees adorned with Spanish moss to reveal Beyoncé with her hair down in a floor length, sheer white gown; right, a makeupless Beyoncé stares directly into the camera, with the bright light behind her and lens flaring creating a halo effect behind her as she opens her eyes and a sonic callback implies her journey has come full circle.
After Beyoncé opens her eyes, two women harvest vegetables and carry them back to the kitchen at Destrehan plantation, in vivid warm color as opposed to the previous black and white. The place has been transformed from one of enslavement and violence to a safe haven, where these women can cultivate the earth and sustain one another.
The camera winds to center the profiles of three Black women in the frame, but rotates in a way that then focuses on the hanging Spanish moss and the trunk of the tree; trees in the film have served as silent witnesses to a brutal past, with the stately postured women here representing the present and future; with that, the hanging moss juxtaposed physically in the frame with the women’s hair suggests the presence of the spirit of the legacy of Black women at Destrehan.
The iconic shot of Beyoncé with actresses Zendaya Coleman and Amandla Stenberg, singers Chloe and Halle, and Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz of the Afro-French Cuban duo Ibeyi on the front porch of a slave cabin, a shot Brentin Mock called “brazen and defiant…a radical gesture.”
Sunlight peeks through the trees and the camera dollies forward off into a serene, sunlit horizon, suggesting a peaceful end to a journey, before the camera cuts to black and the downstrokes of a guitar introduce “All Night.”
Fort Macomb, and the curse, conquered
Birds fly across a luminous sky, symbolic of freedom and hope.
Left, Beyoncé turns her back on Fort Macomb as the sun appears to set below the horizon. She’s conquered the curse and left it behind. Right, her European style-dress, decorated with a beautiful multi-colored Dutch wax print, a fabric emblematic of West Africa, her hair pulled up in an elegant Victorian style, resembling a crown.
Compare dress, posture, and movement in the shots above: left, a healed, triumphant, and confident Beyoncé in colorful dress and styled hair twirls in a clearing here in Chapter 11; right, a tepid Beyoncé with hair under a black hood moves unsurely through tall grass in Chapter 1.
“True love’s the greatest weapon”
Among the first of a long series of grainy home video clips, Beyoncé and JAY-Z are shown smiling and having matching tattoos inked on their ring fingers, symbolic of the marital union.
Four of many shots featuring “real couples” of various races, ages, orientations, featured in the film. These diverse images of couples embracing imply their union as human beings tapping into the universal love we all have access to: real, unthreatened by curses, and radiating unfettered joy.
More personal footage of the Carters, placing their love among the love of the other nameless couples depicted. Note in the bottom right, JAY-Z and Blue Ivy fall onto the turf in the end zone of the Superdome, which served earlier as a symbol of collective trauma; here though, the other side of the coin is displayed, as the Carters’ healing mirrors the Superdome and the city’s resilience and rebirth in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Left, Beyoncé at a low angle, showing her power and command over Fort Macomb, triumphant having overcome the symbolic curse; right, the film’s final shot, where JAY-Z and Beyoncé’s holding hands captures the goals Beyoncé set out to accomplish, showing a broken curse leading the way to a happy, less complicated life for her daughter. With a final playful swipe at the camera, our elaborate and raw glimpse into the Carters’ marriage ends on Beyoncé’s terms, and the credits begin to roll.
BONUS MATERIALS: Episode References and Links
- Yvonne Chireau’s Conjure and Christianity in the Nineteenth Century: Religious Elements in African American Magic:
- Brentin Mock’s :Beyonce’s Simple But Radical Porch-Front Politics:
- JAY-Z’s lengthy interview with New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet, in which he discusses the hook of his song, “Song Cry” (20:08):
- Outkast’s “SpottieOttieDopaliscious,” the horn sample source:
- Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1957 sermon, “Loving Your Enemies,” where he notably discusses the power of the “weapon of love”: