David Byrne’s ‘America’s Utopia’ encourages global concern for our fellow human beings – People’s World

Less is more, keep it simple, unattached. All these sentences accurately describe one of the most beautiful films I have seen in a long time.

Americautopiaoriginally a Broadway hit directed by David Byrne (who also holds one of the main roles), is as successful in this film version as the musician in his live performances.

This film is a sensational mix of beautiful voice acting, simple but effective aerial camerawork and lighting techniques. In the scenes where the song is performed, the lighting effects remind the viewer that the light switch is on and off.

The purpose of this artistic project is simply to get involved, to encourage the public, to let us know, to let the world know the importance of caring about our fellow human beings, and not just living to have a good time.

The film begins with “talking heads” featuring Spike Lee (40 acres and a mule) as director and producer, and David Byrne as lead vocalist, as well as guitar and percussion performer. Waiting for the movie to start made me feel like an impatient child. All 11 cast members were beyond awesome. Working in the simplest costumes (all dressed in light single-color suits), they “strut around” barefoot, had simple headphones (no microphones), and no electrical cords strewn all over the stage. In other words, they weren’t tied down, so they were free.

That’s the feeling you get from this film. The cast seems to be so comfortable – my favorite was Bobby Wooten III, lively and funny.

The actors come from all over the world – France, Brazil, Scotland, USA, etc. This gives the movie a nice blend of voices and faces, making you feel like you’re on an international tour and get to know the people of any country like they’re part of your family.

What is most remarkable is the calmness of the performers’ feet on stage. As they dance, it’s reminiscent of two-year-olds having a blast. This stillness is another of Byrne’s simplifying and essentializing strategies. With very little disturbing noise, each of the singers’ voices can be heard. The harmonization was nothing short of beautiful – haunting, relaxing and soothing. The great beats from the bassists and drummers might make you want to get up and rock some old rock all night though. You could feel the camaraderie between the actors, the fun they had, and the general satisfaction of a job well done. The songs are about revolution, love, camaraderie and treating each other with dignity and respect while making sure to add fun to the equation.

In the opening scene, David Byrne is alone on stage, portraying the spirit of any very young child. He tells how children are equipped with many, many more neurons than the adult brain, but as they grow older the neurons begin to dwindle. In this process of winnowing, a person comes to terms with themselves and who they are.

From then on, the cast takes the stage and the excitement begins. Annie-B Parson is the Director of Staging and Choreography. Yes, it was simple, but it conveyed volumes of stage knowledge and movement. Each actor holds back nothing, gives everything. Daniel Freedman gives a rendition of being the “bobblehead” while appearing to be stuck inside his drum. Jacqueline Acevedo with her cute and shifty gaze gives off a somewhat devious effect.

The lighting techniques are also simple, with the manipulation of shadows helping the audience to relax and enjoy the show. Spike Lee’s talent, as well as his experience in production, make this one of the best of his works I have ever seen.

In the final scene, the actors make their way through the audience, to establish contact with those who have come to see the performance. And you guessed it, the audience just loved it. It was about getting involved in something, making that connection with everyone and being about the changes that we all need to make.

It’s the best movie I’ve seen in a long time, and as your humble reviewer, I suggest everyone on this earth should see it!

The trailer can be viewed here.


Jo Allen Eure

Teresa H. Sadler