Spike Lee

USA, 2020 / 105 min / English OV / Documentary, Musical

Spike Lee’s adaptation of David Byrne's Broadway album and show "American Utopia".

Spike Lee documents the former Talking Heads frontman’s brilliant, timely 2019 Broadway show, based on his recent album and tour of the same name. Recorded during its run at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre in New York City, David Byrne is joined by an ensemble of 11 musicians, singers, and dancers from around the globe, inviting audiences into a joyous dreamworld where human connection, self-evolution, and social justice are paramount. Calling on all of us to think, connect, engage, and dance, American Utopia unites the brain and the backside, which may be exactly what we need right now.

“Deeply thoughtful and wildly exuberant, David Byrne’s theatrical concert American Utopia lit up Broadway with Byrne’s trademark mix of rhythm and ideas. Working with a vibrant new band and dancers, the former Talking Heads frontman turned his music into an antidote to America’s current divisions. Spike Lee’s latest joint brings all this joyous stagecraft to the screen in a vital call to connect with one another, to protest injustice, and, above all, to celebrate life.” Cameron Baily, Toronto International Film Festival


Fri 05/03 19:00 Kinepolis Kirchberg EN OV Public
Sun 07/03 16:00 Ciné Utopia EN OV Public

“Spike Lee filmed five shows at the Hudson Theatre in New York in order to create David Byrne’s American Utopia. The result is stunning. The breadth of the show — the shape and swing of it — are captured in shots from the audience’s perspective. Precise overhead shots of the stage provide neat patterns of light and movement. But, edited by Adam Gough, it is the feeling of being onstage with the performers, the close-ups and crane shots, which bring this remarkable story home.” John Willsteed, The Conversation, 26/11/2020

“Director Spike Lee and musician David Byrne have created a crowd-pleaser with this spry concert film of Byrne’s 2018 tour turned Broadway performance. Nearly half the setlist comprises hits made famous by Talking Heads – and who wouldn’t find their spirits buoyed by footage of Byrne and co careening through the crowd during a sweaty and exuberant performance of Road to Nowhere, GoPro cameras trailing them? Byrne and his band, who wear their instruments strapped to their bodies, dance barefoot in starched, steel-grey suits across a stage designed to look like a chainmail cube.
This is a Spike Lee Joint and so Lee shoots Byrne from above so the viewer can better appreciate the clarity of the staging, from the wings to give a sense of the choreography and among the performers to capture their energy.” Simran Hans, The Guardian, 19/12/2020

“Sharing a sharp visual flair and intertwined history with Byrne on New York’s febrile 1980s arts scene, Lee was a smart choice to direct American Utopia. One of his lesser-known credits is a dynamic 2009 film of the award-winning Broadway rock musical Passing Strange. Working for the fifth time with esteemed cinematographer Ellen Kuras, Lee reinforces this production’s strong visual aesthetic with geometrically beautiful overhead shots and see-sawing cameras during faster numbers. More importantly, Lee responds in subtle but inspired ways to Byrne’s pro-diversity message. The singer’s full-band choral cover of Janelle Monae’s Black Lives Matter protest anthem “Hell You Talmbout” was always a bold inclusion, but Lee embellishes it here with photographs showing each of the African-American victims named in the lyric, adding some notorious recent cases including Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Some of these brief cutaways include surviving family members: a simple, powerful, cinematic flourish that amplifies the song’s impact without disrupting the show’s flow.” Stephen Dalton, Uncut, 08/01/2021

Cast & Credits
David Byrne, Jacquelene Acevedo, Gustavo Di Dalva, Daniel Freedman, Chris Giarmo, Tim Keiper, Tendayi Kuumba, Karl Mansfield, Mauro Refosco, Stéphane San Juan, Angie Swan, Bobby Wooten III
David Byrne
Ellen Kuras
Philip Stockton, Paul Hsu, Craig Kyllonen
David Byrne
Cor Cordium Productions, Hear/Say Productions, Highwayman Films

Born in 1957 in Atlanta, Spike Lee studied at Morehouse College and the Tisch School of the Arts before launching his career in film. In 1983, his short film We Cut Heads won the Oscar for Best Student Film. Three years later, he directed his first feature film, She's Gotta Have It (1986), his first major success, which he repeated in 1988 with the film Do The Right Thing. Spike Lee achieved critical and commercial success in 1992 thanks to Malcolm X, an adaptation of the biography of the American political leader. With Denzel Washington in the lead role, the film was nominated for the Oscars and the Golden Globes. It allowed the director to affirm his fight against discrimination against the African-American community. In 2002, he made 25th Hour, a psychological drama that earned him a new shower of nominations, including at the Golden Globes. In 2018, he won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival with the sensational BlacKkKlansman, telling the story of a black policeman who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan.

  • 2020 – David Byrne's American Utopia (documentary)
  • 2020 – Da 5 Bloods
  • 2020 – 3 Brothers: Radio Raheem, Eric Garner and George Floyd (short)
  • 2020 – New York New York (short)
  • 2019 – Impact (short)
  • 2018 – BlackKklansman
  • 2018 – Pass Over (co-director)
  • 2017 – Brave, Visions for Moncler (short)
  • 2016 – Michael Jackson's Journey from Motown to Off the Wall (documentary)
  • 2015 – Chi-Raq
  • 2014 – Da Sweet Blood of Jesus
  • 2014 – Mo'ne Davis: I Throw Like a Girl (documentary short)
  • 2014 – Go Brasil Go! (documentary)
  • 2013 – Oldboy
  • 2012 – Bad 25 (documentary)
  • 2012 – Red Hook Summer
  • 2012 – Passing Strange (documentary)
  • 2008 – Miracle at St. Anna
  • 2007 – Lovers & Haters (short)
  • 2006 – Inside Man
  • 2005 – Jesus Children of America (short)
  • 2002 – She Hate Me
  • 2002 – 25th Hour
  • 2001 – Come Rain or Come Shine (short)
  • 2000 – Bamboozled
  • 2000 – The Original Kings of Comedy (documentary)
  • 1999 – Summer of Sam
  • 1998 – He Got Game
  • 1997 – 4 Little Girls (documentary)
  • 1996 – Get on the Bus
  • 1996 – Girl 6
  • 1995 – Clockers
  • 1994 – Crooklyn
  • 1992 – Malcom X
  • 1991 – Jungle Fever
  • 1990 – Mo’ Better Blues
  • 1989 – Do the Right Thing
  • 1988 – School Daze
  • 1986 – She’s Gotta Have It
  • 1983 – Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (short)
  • 1981 – Sarah (short)
  • 1980 – The Answer (short)
  • 1979 – Last Hustle in Brooklyn (short)