David Byrne’s American Utopia and 3 Excellent New Movies About America


Look, I think a lot of us can agree that America doesn’t look great these days. The land of the free and the home of the brave are exhausted, sick, anxious, distracted and at war with themselves. As we are only weeks away from a momentous election, it is not controversial to say that it is not the brightest moment in the country.

So while I’m not sure if it’s by design or by accident, it’s a fluke that four films premiering on digital services this weekend try to thread a tricky needle: see America for this. that it is and find hope there anyway. Two are film versions of acclaimed Broadway plays; another is that of one of the country’s most acclaimed screenwriters; and one is one of the best documentaries of the year.

The images painted in these films are by no means pink. They don’t play around with myths about restoring our old greatness or being the best of ourselves. But the people who created them are looking for the core of humanity in the midst of injustice, and each finds it in their own way.

Put the four together, and you begin to see a thoughtful, layered, hopeful portrait of America, leveraging the past to understand the present, and finding something in the present to point us into the future. I can’t think of a better theme to look for in these tough, difficult days.

Watch Time for a heartbreaking story of real courage and hope

Heartbreaking and passionate, Time is the chronicle of a deferred love and of the life that hope can give. Garrett Bradley’s documentary follows Fox Rich (aka Sibil Richardson), who spent 21 years stubbornly petitioning for her husband, Rob, to be released from prison. Rob is serving a 60-year sentence for a juvenile crime in which they were both involved; During this time, Fox raised their six children and became a strong advocate for change in his community.

Time details his struggle, demonstrating how mass incarceration consistently separates black families in America, as well as how bureaucracy and centuries of narratives cover up the truth and pain of those separations. And from the start, Fox has been making videos at home, which feels like a diary of his pain, endurance, and commitment to hope.

How to watch it: Time is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Watch What the Constitution means to me for an angry and hopeful outlook on law, debate and rights

When Heidi Schreck was 15, she was traveling the Pacific Northwest for speech contests run by American Legion chapters, giving improvised speeches on the meaning and importance of various constitutional amendments. Years later, she recreated this experience with What the Constitution means to me, who won Tony and Pulitzer nominations during her Broadway run in 2019. Schreck wrote and starred in the play, in which she claims to be herself at 15, speaking about the Constitution – at least until then that his youthful optimism be called into question by both his adult realism and the stories of his family’s past.

The filmed version of What the Constitution means to me (with the direction of Won’t you be my neighbor‘s Marielle Heller) captures this moving, angry, heartbreaking and eerily inspiring Broadway show. Schreck skillfully oscillates between his own personal history, the life stories of his ancestors and his in-depth knowledge of Supreme Court decisions and arguments, mixing politics, rights discourse and lived experience. And she ends up arguing with a teenage debate partner over the future of the Constitution – a moment that shows the power and true purpose of real, thoughtful debate.

How to watch it: What the Constitution means to me is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.


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