Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Lee-directed version of Byrne's 'American Utopia' will open 45th TIFF

TORONTO ─ TIFF Co-Heads Cameron Bailey and Joana Vicente announced this morning that the HBO, Spike Lee–directed filmed version of the Broadway-acclaimed David Byrne’s American Utopia is the Opening Night Presentation of the 45th annual Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday, Sept. 10.
The film documents musical innovator and former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s powerful Broadway show, where he performs songs on stage and shares the spotlight with 11 musicians from around the world, including Toronto’s own Jacquelene Acevedo.
Byrne leads his "American Utopia" troupe into TIFF on Sept. 10.
“This joyful film takes audiences on a musical journey about openness, optimism, and faith in humanity,” said Vicente, Executive Director and Co-Head, TIFF. “This is especially poignant at a time of great uncertainty around the world. We’re eager to share the excitement of Opening Night with audiences.”
“Spike Lee has somehow always been exactly of his moment and ahead of his time,” added Bailey, Artistic Director and Co-Head, TIFF. “With David Byrne’s American Utopia, he brings Byrne’s classic songs and joyous stagecraft to the screen just when we need it. Spike’s latest joint is a call to connect with one another, to protest injustice, and, above all, to celebrate life.”
Byrne’s American Utopia played at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre in New York City with plenty of fanfare from October 2019 to February 2020. The concert consisted of performances of songs from Byrne’s 2018 solo album of the same name, including popular Talking Heads favorites such as “Once in a Lifetime” and “Burning Down the House.” Janelle Monáe’s “Hell You Talmbout” is also featured in the set list and contributes to tackling the impactful subjects surrounding Black Americans who have been killed at the hands of law enforcement. 

The 11-person troupe performs choreography by Annie-B Parson and dances with their instruments throughout the stage, creating a high-energy performance. In Canada, Byrne’s American Utopia will premiere on Bell Media’s Crave day-and-date with the U.S. broadcast on HBO this fall.
As far as the festival is concerned, TIFF continues to work closely with the Province of Ontario, the City of Toronto, and public health officials on its safe execution, with its "number-one priority being the health and well-being of both Festival filmgoers and the residents of the entire community." 
The presentation of TIFF’s traditional in-person film festival will be contingent on the Province’s reopening framework to ensure that Festival venues and workplace practices meet and exceed public health guidelines. The worldwide health crisis has affected everyone working in the cultural industries, and TIFF has been severely impacted as the cornerstone of a $2-billion-a-year film industry in Toronto. The 45th Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 10–19.
Keep following tiff.net for updates.

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