‘Formation’ Director: ‘I Didn’t Know the Video Was Going to Incite All Those Conversations’

By Sameer Rao Mar 06, 2017

Director Melina Matsoukas‘ 2016 music video for Beyoncé‘s "Formation" received tremendous praise and backlash for its scenes and motifs rebuking police brutality and celebrating Black womanhood. Matsoukas, who counts over a dozen other videos for both Knowles sisters in her filmography, reveals little-known details about "Formation" in a profile in today’s (March 6) issue of The New Yorker

Matsoukas, who is of Afro-Cuban and European Jewish heritage, says the video concept grew out of conversations with Beyoncé about the creative direction of "Lemonade." "She wanted to show the historical impact of slavery on Black love, and what it has done to the Black family," she says about the album. "And Black men and women—how we’re almost socialized not to be together."

The director sought further inspiration from the works of Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and Octavia Butler. Ultimately she wanted to depict Black America’s resilience: "We triumph, we suffer, we’re drowning, we’re being beaten, we’re dancing, we’re eating, and we’re still here," she says.

The resulting "Formation" video, for which Matsoukas earned a "Best Music Video" Grammy award, featured scenes of Beyoncé sitting on a sinking police squad car, a Black boy dancing in front of a line of police and graffiti reading, "Stop Shooting Us." Speaking on the resulting backlash from both police unions and critics accusing Beyoncé of exploiting the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, Matsoukas remarks, "I didn’t know the video was going to incite all those conversations." She also defends her anti-police violence imagery: "When they said ‘Formation’ was anti-police, I was, like, ‘So what are you, pro-shooting us, then?’"

The article also covers Matsoukas’ lesser-known production and directorial work on HBO’s "Insecure." Creator Issa Rae describes creative conflicts between their visions: "A lot of our biggest battles come from me wanting this to be grounded, and we end up meeting halfway. She comes from a more heightened world, and I’m self-proclaimed basic," she says about Matsoukas’ taste. 

Read the full article here