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John Batiste, a black man in a suit playing a piano as a large audience watches him.

Doc Stories

Opening Night: American Symphony

Directed by Matthew Heineman

USA | Documentary | 94

2 Nov
Thu, Nov 2, 2023 at 6:30 pm PT

Guests Expected

Director Matthew Heineman and Producer Lauren Domino are expected to attend for an Intro and Q&A.


Filmmaker Matthew Heineman is no stranger to complex topics, but his most recent documentary may be his most profound film to date. Profiling the creative polyglot Jon Batiste, this is not your typical music documentary. It is a complicated, joyous, and layered story about insurmountable challenges and awe-inspiring intimacy. It begins with Batiste at the peak of professional success, newly minted with an Oscar and preparing a bold composition for Carnegie Hall—a symphony that aims to deconstruct the historical canon of American music and revisit expunged sounds and artists. Just as this sonic jubilation starts to coalesce, Batiste and his partner, writer and musician Suleika Jaouad, learn her leukemia has returned. As Batiste prepares for Carnegie and the Grammys and Jaouad navigates her treatment, the pair continues to create new art and find quiet moments of reflection. Heineman weaves together the public and the private in this cacophonous and illuminating tale of universal joy and personal triumph.

Director Matthew Heineman

Matthew Heineman is an Academy Award-nominated, six-time Emmy Award-winning, and two-time DGA Award winning-filmmaker. Heineman founded Our Time Projects, a New York-based production company that produced some of Heineman’s gripping and unprecedented films such as City of Ghosts (Festival 2017) and Retrograde. Heineman, a 2005 graduate of Dartmouth College, is currently based in New York City.

Producer Lauren Domino

Lauren Domino is a writer and producer. She is a 2017 Sundance Institute creative producing fellow. Her work as a producer includes Alone, The Earth is Humming, Black Folk Don’t, Like, America, and Academy Award Nominated, TIME (Amazon Studios). Lauren has produced branded content and live events for The New Yorker, Elle Magazine, The Oscars, Microsoft, and Essence Festival. Lauren co-hosted the podcast The Secret Lives of Black Women, which has been highlighted by The New York Times and Forbes.

Film Details

Language English

Year 2023

Premiere California

Runtime 94

Country USA

Director Matthew Heineman

Producer Lauren Domino, Matthew Heineman, Joedan Okun

Editor Sammy Dane, Matthew Heineman, Jim Hession, Fernando Villegas

Cinematographer Tony Hardmon, Matthew Heineman, Thorsten Thielow

Music Jon Batiste

Closed Captions Closed captions are not available for this screening.

Audio Description Audio descriptions are not available for this screening.

American Sign Language (ASL) Interpretation American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation is not currently scheduled for this event. For more information about ASL interpretation at our events, e-mail ADA@SFFilm.org.