Summer of Soul (or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
An electric documentary portrait of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival by Best Documentary Oscar winner and Roots co-founder and drummer, Questlove.
An incredible, vital act of restoration – and reclamation... This is black music at the end of a turbulent decade filled with rights gained and leaders lost. It’s Motown, the blues, R&B, Afro-Latino jams and praise-the-lord hymns – songs that are loving, healing, spiritual, carnal, buoyant and enraged.
Over a series of Sundays in the summer of 1969, Black audiences gathered in Harlem’s Mount Morris Park to see once-in-a-lifetime line-ups of Black performers ranging from Blues guitarist B.B. King to pop vocal group 5th Dimension, the ‘Queen of Gospel Song’ Mahalia Jackson to Afro-Cuban percussionist and bandleader, ‘Mongo’ Santamaria.
Though it never achieved the same cultural resonance as the three-day Woodstock festival which took place that same summer – an historical imbalance the film also explores – the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival was a landmark celebration of African American music and culture that promoted Black pride and unity. Rolling Stone reviewer, David Fear lays it out: “if Summer of Soul were nothing but a labour-of-love rescue mission from a soul-music scholar, it would still be a first-rate concert film [but] what’s captured here is a vibrant, vital, essential look at a handful of performers in their prime [who appeared] on the regular to entertain and enlighten and empower anyone who was uptown and around”. Mavis Staples, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and many megawatt others appear in a film that has garnered an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, a Grammy for Best Music Film and major awards at Sundance.
– Roberta Ciabarra; Curator, Film
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Mild themes and drug references
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