American Utopia
Byrne and his supporting musicians standing onstage with the bottom of the photo melting into a wave
Official poster
Directed bySpike Lee
Written byDavid Byrne
Produced by
  • Spike Lee
  • David Byrne
StarringDavid Byrne
CinematographyEllen Kuras
Edited byAdam Gough
Music byDavid Byrne
Production
companies
Distributed byHBO (United States)
Universal Pictures (International)[1]
Release dates
  • September 10, 2020 (2020-09-10) (Toronto)
  • October 17, 2020 (2020-10-17)
Running time
105 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

American Utopia is a 2020 American concert film directed and produced by Spike Lee, from a screenplay by David Byrne. The film is a live recording of a Broadway performance of the show adapted from the touring show that supported the album of the same name, featuring selections from that album, as well as songs from throughout Byrne's career. Byrne performs alongside eleven musicians, all performing with wireless or portable equipment. Frequent collaborator Annie-B Parson serves as choreographer.

It had its world premiere at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2020. The film received critical acclaim.

Cast

All provide percussion; all except Byrne provide backing vocals.

Songs

Production

In June 2020, it was announced Spike Lee had directed a filmed version of the Broadway performance American Utopia by David Byrne, with HBO distributing.[3][4]

Release

The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2020.[5] It screened at the New York Film Festival on October 3, 2020,[6][7] and the BFI London Film Festival on October 14, 2020.[8][9] It was broadcast in the United States and Canada on HBO and made available for streaming through HBO Max (U.S.) and Crave (Canada) on October 17, 2020.[10][11] Universal Pictures distributes the film in all other countries.[1] The film received a limited theatrical release in the United States throughout September 2021.

Reception

American Utopia received critical acclaim. It holds a 98% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 135 reviews, with an average of 8.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Helmed in elegant and exhilarating style by Spike Lee, David Byrne's American Utopia is a concert film that doubles as a joyously cathartic celebration."[12] On Metacritic, the film holds a rating of 93 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[13]

Erik Adams of The A.V. Club devotes a lengthy review to American Utopia as "the right movie for 2020", noting how Byrne balances hope in a tumultuous world, writing, "The key to American Utopia's resonance isn’t so much one of joy versus despair as it is connection versus isolation".[14]

Accolades

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards December 21, 2020 Best Documentary Film David Byrne and Spike Lee Nominated [15]
Florida Film Critics Circle Awards December 21, 2020 Best Documentary Film American Utopia on Broadway Nominated [16]
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards January 11, 2021 Best Use of Music American Utopia on Broadway Runner-up [17]
Toronto Film Critics Association Awards February 7, 2021 Allan King Documentary Award Spike Lee Runner-up [18]
Directors Guild of America Award April 10, 2021 Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Specials Spike Lee Nominated [19]
American Cinema Editors Eddie Awards April 17, 2021 Best Edited Variety Talk/Sketch Show or Special Adam Gough Won [20]
Primetime Emmy Awards September 19, 2021 Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded) Jeff Skoll, David Linde, Diane Weyermann, Len Blavatnik, David Bither, Charlie Cohen, Kurt Deutsch, Bill Pohlad, Christa Zofcin Workman, Jon Kamen, Dave Sirulnick, Meredith Bennett, Kristin Caskey, Mike Isaacson, Patrick Catullo, Sue Naegle, Alec Sash, David Byrne and Spike Lee Nominated [21]
September 11 and 12, 2021 Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special Spike Lee Nominated
Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction for a Variety Special Rob Sinclair and Brian Spett Won
Outstanding Music Direction Karl Mansfield Nominated
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Variety Series or Special Paul Hsu, Pete Keppler and Michael Lonsdale Won
Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Special Peter Agliata, Kerwin DeVonish, Tim Ives, Ellen Kuras, Sam Levy, Charles Libin, Declan Quinn, Yousheng Tang, Gregor Tavenner and David Waterston Nominated
Tony Awards September 26, 2021 Special Tony Award American Utopia on Broadway Won
Grammy Awards January 31, 2022 Best Music Film American Utopia on Broadway Nominated [22]

References

  1. ^ a b Grater, Tom (September 22, 2020). "Spike Lee-Directed 'David Byrne's American Utopia' Heading To Universal PCG For International". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on September 22, 2020. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  2. ^ "American Utopia". Toronto International Film Festival. Archived from the original on September 6, 2020. Retrieved September 8, 2020.
  3. ^ Kim Murphy, J. (June 16, 2020). "Spike Lee-Directed Filmed Version of 'David Byrne's American Utopia' to Premiere on HBO". Variety. Archived from the original on July 22, 2020. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
  4. ^ White, Peter (June 16, 2020). "Spike Lee-Directed Film Version Of 'David Byrne's American Utopia' Heads To HBO". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on July 9, 2020. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
  5. ^ Lang, Brent (July 21, 2020). "'American Utopia,' Spike Lee's David Byrne Concert Film, to Open Toronto Film Festival". Variety. Archived from the original on July 22, 2020. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
  6. ^ Welk, Brian (August 27, 2020). "Sofia Coppola's 'On the Rocks,' Pedro Almodovar's 'The Human Voice' and Orson Welles Doc Added to NYFF Lineup". TheWrap. Archived from the original on October 29, 2020. Retrieved August 27, 2020.
  7. ^ "American Utopia". New York Film Festival. Archived from the original on September 18, 2020. Retrieved August 29, 2020.
  8. ^ "American Utopia". BFI London Film Festival. Archived from the original on October 5, 2020. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  9. ^ Ritman, Alex (September 8, 2020). "'Nomadland,' 'American Utopia,' 'Soul' Added as Rejigged London Film Festival Unveils Full Program". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on September 9, 2020. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  10. ^ Strauss, Matthew (August 24, 2020). "Watch the New Trailer for David Byrne's American Utopia, Directed by Spike Lee". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on August 24, 2020. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  11. ^ Evans, Greg (August 24, 2020). "'David Byrne's American Utopia' Teaser: HBO Releases First Look At Spike Lee's Film Adaptation Of Broadway Smash". Deadline. Archived from the original on September 19, 2020. Retrieved October 2, 2020.
  12. ^ "David Byrne's American Utopia (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Archived from the original on January 19, 2021. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
  13. ^ "American Utopia". Metacritic. Archived from the original on September 16, 2020. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  14. ^ Adams, Erik (October 19, 2020). "David Byrne and Spike Lee Made American Utopia the Right Movie for 2020". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on October 22, 2020. Retrieved October 23, 2020.
  15. ^ "Chloé Zhao's Nomadland Leads Chicago Film Critics Association 2020 Award Nominations". Chicago Film Critics Association. December 18, 2020. Archived from the original on December 18, 2020. Retrieved March 23, 2021.
  16. ^ "2020 Florida Film Critics Circle Award Nominations". Florida Film Critics Circle. December 17, 2020. Archived from the original on December 17, 2020. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  17. ^ Anderson, Erik (January 11, 2021). "San Diego Film Critics give love to 'Promising Young Woman,' 'Sound of Metal'". Awards Watch. Archived from the original on March 23, 2021. Retrieved March 23, 2021.
  18. ^ "Nomadland Leads 24th Annual TFCA Awards". Toronto Film Critics Association. February 7, 2021. Archived from the original on February 8, 2021. Retrieved March 23, 2021.
  19. ^ Lewis, Hilary; O'Connell, Mikey (March 8, 2021). "DGA Awards: 'Ted Lasso,' 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' Score Two TV Nominations Apiece". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on March 11, 2021. Retrieved March 23, 2021.
  20. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (March 11, 2021). "'Minari,' 'Trial of the Chicago 7' Among American Cinema Editors' Eddie Awards Nominees". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on March 11, 2021. Retrieved March 11, 2021.
  21. ^ "David Byrne's American Utopia". Emmys.com. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved July 13, 2021.
  22. ^ "2022 GRAMMYs Awards Show: Complete Nominations List". Grammy Awards. November 23, 2021. Retrieved November 23, 2021.