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In late 2019, legendary musician and artist David Byrne contacted director Spike Lee to see if he would be interested in making a film of his acclaimed Broadway show, American Utopia. Lee came on board, and the result is an exhilarating record of a seismic theater event as well as a momentous work of cinema in its own right. Featuring thrilling performances of Talking Heads hits and Byrne numbers (“Once in a Lifetime,” “Burning Down the House,” “Glass, Concrete & Stone”) by a dazzling 11-person ensemble, American Utopia is both joyous and politically engaged, a reckoning of these dark times through music and togetherness, with a galvanizing rendition of Janelle Monáe’s “Hell You Talmbout” that’s destined to be one of the year’s most talked-about screen moments. With 11 camera operators, Lee and cinematographer Ellen Kuras (who shot Lee’s Bamboozled) capture the thrill of live performance with a concert film that functions as a poignant tribute to two essential New York artists who remain in the primes of their careers. An HBO release.
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