David Byrne's American Utopia

Spike Lee’s David Byrne’s American Utopia to Open TIFF

The new Spike Lee joint will open the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). TIFF announced today that Lee’s film David Byrne’s American Utopia will be the opening night gala at this year’s festival on September 10. The film is Lee’s documentation of Byrne’s acclaimed Broadway show American Utopia, which ran from October 2019 to February 2020. Byrne, a former frontman for the iconic rock group the Talking Heads, joins fellow artists including Toronto’s own Jacquelene Acevedo in celebrating the social and political power of music.


“Spike Lee has somehow always been exactly of his moment and ahead of his time,” said Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director and Co-Head of TIFF in a statement from the festival. “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.”


“This joyful film takes audiences on a musical journey about openness, optimism, and faith in humanity,” added Joana 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.”


David Byrne’s American Utopia marks another turn in which the festival opened with a music doc. Last year’s festival kicked off with Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band, directed by Daniel Roher. It was the first Canadian documentary ever to open the festival. 2011 opened with the U2 doc From the Sky Down.



Lee’s documentation of American Utopia follows on the thundering success of Hamilton released earlier this summer. The film set streaming records on Disney Plus with its filmed version of the hit Broadway musical. David Byrne’s American Utopia will premiere on Bell Media’s Crave day-and-date with the US broadcast on HBO this fall.


Spike Lee is one of America’s most acclaimed and influential filmmakers. He won an Oscar for his screenplay for 2018’s BlacKkKlansman and is known for provocative dramas including Do the Right ThingMalcolm X, and 25th Hour. This year, Lee released the Netflix drama Da 5 Bloods, which drew Oscar buzz and was picked by several That Shelf contributors as the best film of 2020 so far. His documentaries include the Michael Jackson doc Bad 25, which screened at TIFF 2012 and When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, which won two Primetime Emmy Awards and three prizes at the Venice Film Festival. It screened at the 2006 edition of TIFF.


This year’s edition of TIFF features a slimmed-down version of the festival with 50 films screening in a mix of in-person and virtual events. TIFF previously announced eight selections, while Kate Winslet will be honoured at the annual TIFF Tribute Gala.


TIFF runs Sept. 10 to 19 2020


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