Tribeca Festival 2023: Hulu’s “Anthem” is a Beautiful Concept That Perhaps Needed a Different Format

The idea of patriotism is a tough one to broach in any medium, especially in the current climate. So a documentary about two Black men in America attempting to create a new national anthem is certainly one that is going to draw some attention.

Reflecting upon “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Anthem follows acclaimed composer Kris Bowers and GRAMMY-winning music producer Dahi as they take a musical journey traveling across America to create a new sound, inspired by what our country’s national anthem might be if written in today’s time.

This new documentary is built on a beautiful concept. The idea of creating a new national anthem that features the voices of all of the nation’s people is a great sentiment. On top of that, there’s a level of tension and suspense as these two producers embark on a journey to complete what seems to be an impossible task. Creating an anthem to replace one with more than 200 years of history behind it is an uphill battle to say the least.

Unfortunately, it becomes evident as you watch more and more of Anthem, that the concept may have been better served in a different format. As Bowers and Dahi travel from city to city, speaking with musicians of all different backgrounds, the conversations they have are enlightening and informational but a bit repetitive. If this journey were to play out as a miniseries, with perhaps five half-hour episodes, our hosts could spend more time in each city and learn more about the culture or even personal experiences. Instead, we hear similar summaries of the history of different music genres in each city.

They also seem to come to the end of their journey having learned the same lesson they set out already knowing: that an anthem needs to connect with the people. Looking at the doc through a scientific lens, they set out with a hypothesis and proved it to be correct. So it does make sense on that level. From a storytelling standpoint though, they don’t seem to have gained a whole lot of new information through their journey.

What they did find on the journey though, is a team of talented musicians whom they bring on board to record the song. The most compelling few moments of the entire doc comes when people of all different cultures, from all across the country, get into a room together and collaborate on the lyrics for a new national anthem. It is understandably tense and yet beautiful to watch.

Another thing this doc succeeds at in a big way is building anticipation. From the moment Bowers and Dahi start discussing this concept, you immediately want to hear the song they're going to produce. As you watch them meet these musicians and build their team of writers, that feeling only grows stronger and stronger. Luckily, it does pay off in the end.

Overall, Anthem is worth the watch for the concept and creation of the actual song. The rest of the documentary unfortunately may have played better if it were given either more or less time. It could have worked as a miniseries or as a slightly shorter doc that just sees the producers assembling their team. Still, the payoff is there in the end.

Anthem will begin streaming on Hulu on June 28.

Be sure to check out more of our coverage from this year’s Tribeca Festival.

Mike Mack
Mack is the Editorial Director for Marvel and ESPN content and he has covered comic cons, theme park events, video game showcases and other fun events. He is a fan of theme parks, sports, movies, Marvel Comics and is a self-proclaimed "nerd."