Review by Sean Boelman
Given U2’s history of giving things to people unsolicited, some might be wondering who asked for another documentary about them. However, Kiss the Future is not your average music documentary. Although it is about U2 to an extent, the film does an exceptional job of telling their story within the greater context of this historically significant conflict.
The movie tells the unlikely story of U2’s concert in Sarajevo, as musicians and journalists in the country of Bosnia rallied to get the famously socially-conscious band to show their support for them in the war. Given the global conflicts that our world faces today, Kiss the Future is an essential and inspiring message of love and peace.
Before we get into U2’s advocacy in the war, we are given a rundown of about 30 minutes of the conflict and its background. Although this “history lesson” portion of the film can feel a bit dry, it provides essential context for us to understand the meaning and significance of the rest of the story.
One of the biggest risks when it comes to documentaries about high-profile individuals and their advocacy is that they can quickly start to feel like white saviorism, but Cicin-Sain thankfully mostly avoids this. Although U2’s concert celebrating the end of the war, as well as their broadcasts from the war zone during their tour are the focus of the movie, it takes care to give a platform and voice to those who were actually on the front lines.
What is surprising about the film is that it actually interrogates some of the criticisms that people levied against U2 for their role in this story. In the movie, Bono and his bandmates address the claims that what they did to bring attention to the war in Sarajevo was exploitative and performative, leading to a discussion of performative activism in general.
The access that the filmmakers had for interviews and archive materials are nothing short of extraordinary, but that should come as no surprise considering how passionate Bono and U2 are about the social causes they put their support behind. From the band members to the people who were on the front lines of the conflict, we get to hear from some amazing individuals.
Some of the more fascinating aspects of the film are those which discuss not U2, but the artists from Bosnia who continued to create and perform in underground locations despite the conflict raging on around them. In fact, there is enough fascinating material here to create an entire feature-length documentary about these brave and inspiring individuals.
With Kiss the Future, filmmaker Nenad Cicin-Sain has made a moving tribute to what can happen if we all come together. One of the most powerful moments in the movie is an interview with Bono in which he says, “being united is a great thing, but respecting differences is an even greater thing.” If watching Kiss the Future can inspire people to respect each other’s differences, it will have done its job.
Kiss the Future screens at the 2023 Tribeca Festival, which runs June 7-18 in NYC and June 19 through July 2 online.