Musician Ahmir Thompson (better known as “Questlove” from The Roots and Jimmy Fallon’s in-house band) perfectly applies his expertise and passion for multifaceted harmony to his filmmaking debut Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised), a concert documentary about the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969 and its significance.
Often referred to as the “Black Woodstock”, the Harlem Cultural Festival brought audiences of all walks to Manhatten’s Mount Morris Park over the course of six weeks to experience inspiring music from prolific artists – Stevie Wonder, The 5th Dimension, Sly and the Family Stone, and Nina Simone to name a few featured acts. The festival was filmed, but the footage was never used and has been collecting dust for over 50 years.
With Summer of Soul, Questlove and editor Joshua L. Pearson (What Happened, Miss Simone?) want to use this footage (and modern interviews) to tell a multilayered narrative about the drive behind the festival and the lasting inspiration it created for viewers and performers alike. While the beautifully touched-up footage plays with its accompanying live rcordings, Summer of Soul identifies the underlying life and history and proceeds to analyze and personalize. Whether the results are uplifting or sobering, the film cuts to the point with precision and class.
Summer of Soul is also an elating experience, truly transporting viewers to a special place in time. We leave the movie with a newfound appreciation for art, history, and culture; solidifying Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised) as one of the best movies of the year.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie