Variety's Virtual TIFF Studio
David Byrne may express himself through his musical process but he’s doesn’t ignore the real-life atrocities and challenges that are plaguing the world today. The two-time Grammy winner brought his…
David Byrne may express himself through his musical process but he’s doesn’t ignore the real-life atrocities and challenges that are plaguing the world today.
The two-time Grammy winner brought his Broadway hit “American Utopia” to the New York City theater world in October 2019 before it was abruptly shut down, along with all other Broadway productions, due to the COVID-19 pandemic back in March. It was in June 2020 when Academy Award winner Spike Lee announced he had directed a filmed version of the performance for HBO.
The film brings the charm and joyful energy you’ve come to expect from David Byrne. Directed by Spike Lee, his signature style is at the forefront as the story unfolds with Byrne’s concert and musical sensibilities echoing throughout the theater chambers.
Byrne reflects on the show and if it will be continuing its Broadway run while discussing race relations that are addressed in his show and if his audience is understanding this time in our country’s history. Byrne covers Janelle Monáe’s song “Hell You Talmbout” in the show and reflects on asking the families of Black men and women who have been killed by police, to film segments for the movie.
Byrne also addresses the resurfaced video of the Oscar-winner wearing brownface and blackface in a 1984 promotional video for the Talking Heads’ iconic concert film “Stop Making Sense.”
Byrne shares during his interview, “I did that. It was a mistake. I did it. I’ve learned from it. I’ve changed. I’ve grown.” He goes on to share regarding his public apology, “if I’m going to talk about this stuff, I can’t talk about giving advice to other people if I can’t do it myself.”
Debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month, the film has received positive reviews from critics, including Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman who called it “thrilling.” The film will be making its debut at the upcoming New York Film Festival on Oct. 3 before broadcasting on HBO and streaming on HBO Max on Oct. 17.
Variety’s virtual Toronto International Film Festival is presented by Canada Goose.