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Controversy Surrounds Footage In Beyonce’s “Formation” Video

Beyonce did the impossible and raised the anticipation for Super Bowl 50 to a new level with the surprise release of her song and video, “Formation.”  The stunning visual finds Bey immersed in her Louisiana roots (Mama Knowles traces her bloodline to Iberia Parish and her sister Solange lives in New Orleans).

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Visually it more than lives up to her high standards for dramatic flare as director Melina Matsoukas captures everything from a hooded Black boy standing down a phalanx of police to Mrs. Carter doing donuts in an El Camino. Producer Mike Will Made-it provides the perfect backdrop for lyrics that are wonderfully subversive, dripping with racial pride as Beyonce sings about liking her “negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils,” taking her man to Red Lobster when he hits it right and “keeping hot sauce in her bag swag.”

The clip has gotten all kinds of boldfaced names like John Legend letting their fan out:

But “Formation” is already facing some controversy over the extensive b-roll footage that gave the video its character. The images of the dancers, floating homes and the like were taken from a documentary on New Orleans bounce called “That B.E.A.T.” shot three years ago by director Chris Black and Abteen Bagheri, director of A$AP Rocky’s “Peso” video.

According to, “That B.E.AT” was one of several short films that comprised the Sundance Channel’s “New American Noise” series in 2013.

There are several frames that do appear identical to the footage used in the Beyonce video:

That BEAT 2 That BEAT 3 That BEAT1

In a series of Tweets Bagheri and Black said that permission was sought to use the footage but was declined.

“If you call yourself a director, have some respect for other people with the same title,” Bagheri wrote. “Talk to me about how and why you need my footage. It’s one thing to make a career off referencing/copying, but just to take footage from our lens and say you’re the director?”

Matsoukas did acknowledge in a Tweet that the footage did indeed come from Bagheri and Black.

This is not the first time Beyonce’s team has been accused of pilfering intellectual property for a video. In 2011 her “Coundtown” video came under fire for the similarities to choreography by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.

Directing and producing the documentary doesn’t necessarily mean that they own the rights to it, and Beyonce’s team may not need to have gotten their permission to use the footage.


In statement to Entertainment Weekly, Beyonce’s team insists that they obtained all necessary rights to the footage:

“The documentary footage was used with permission and licensed from the owner of the footage. They were given proper compensation. The footage was provided to us by the filmmaker’s production company. The filmmaker is listed in the credits for additional photography direction. We are thankful that they granted us permission.”

Nevertheless, here are the controversy free moments with Beyonce and Baby Blue that will make “Formation” a social media hit.






Beyonce Formation Middle Finger

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Beyonce Formation Stop Shooting Us

Beyonce Formation police car

Beyonce Formation submerge

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