'David Byrne's American Utopia' reveals power of entertainment in uniting people during challenging times
#Toronto, #TIFF2020; #DavidByrneAmericanUtopia; #OpeningNightGalaPresetation
Toronto, Sep 23 (Canadian-Media): HBO, Spike Lee-directed filmed version of the Broadway-acclaimed David Byrne’s American Utopia which marked the opening night of the 45th Toronto International Film Festival documents the brilliant theatrical concert American Utopia, which had lit up Broadway last year with Byrne’s trademark mix of rhythm and deeply thoughtful and buoyant ideas based on his recent album and tour of the same name.
Image: American Utopia. Image credit: Twitter handle of TIFF
As the production starts, Byrne is portrayed as a shadowy and ghastly figure with white hair lit from above, sitting in a chair at a card table, holding a model of a brain. Initially, it seemed it could be a one-man show, but soon he begins singing “Here,” from his 2018 album American Utopia.
The mood of intellectual reflection of song, “Here,” is soon transformed into a mysterious and artful gesture and dance-floor funk when Byrne is joined on stage by vocalist-dancer Tendayi Kuumba and dancer-vocalist Chris Giarmo, with other members of the band also joining, everyone has dressed alike in light gray suits, gray button-down shirts, and barefoot, all set to a tribal-pop beat.
Leader of Talking Heads through the 1970s and Eighties, Byrne followed his own universal path as a solo artist since then and has in recent years made it his mission to try to help people find happiness.
Byrne’s tactful transformation of the social and political issues raised in the show resulted in the revelation of how audiences can come together during challenging times through the power of entertainment.
Working with a new band and dancers Byrne turned his music with a call to connect with one another, to protest injustice, and, above all, to celebrate life.
The concert consists of performances of songs from Byrne’s 2018 solo album of the same name as well as works from his Talking Heads years such as “Once in a Lifetime” and “Burning Down the House.”
68-year old Byrne also covered a protest song about police brutality in Janelle Monáe’s “Hell You Talmbout,” in which Byrne sings, plays instruments, and dances along with an 11-person troupe including Toronto’s Jacquelene Acevedo with the band chanting out the names of Black Americans killed by police while performing high-energy choreography by Annie-B Parson.
Born in Atlanta and raised in Brooklyn, Spike Lee's debut feature, She’s Gotta Have It (86), won the Prix de la Jeunesse at Cannes.
His many films include the features School Daze (88), Do the Right Thing (89), Jungle Fever (91), Malcolm X (92), Clockers (95), Bamboozled (00), 25th Hour (02), Inside Man (06), Miracle at St. Anna (08), Chi-Raq (15), BlacKkKlansman (18), and Da 5 Bloods (20), and the documentaries 4 Little Girls (97) and When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (06). David Byrne’s American Utopia (20) is his latest work.
Produced by David Byrne, Spike Lee, and executive produced by Jeff Skoll, David Linde, Diane Weyermann, and others, the casting of the film is by David Byrne, Jacquelene Acevedo, Gustavo Di Dalva, Daniel Freedman, Chris Giarmo, Tim Keiper, Tendayi Kuumba, Karl Mansfield, Mauro Refosco, Stéphane San Juan, Angie Swan, and Bobby Wooten III.
The distribution of the film is done by the US, publicity by Home Box Office (HBO), and the film distributed in Canada by Crave.