SUMMER OF SOUL (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
(director: Questlove; cinematographer: Shawn Peters; editor: Joshua L. Pearson; music: ; cast: Chris Rock, Stevie Wonder, Lin-Manuel Miranda; Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: David Dinerstein/Robert Fyvolent/Joseph Patel; Vulcan Productions; 2021)
“Compelling Black music documentary.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson better known as Questlove (“Black Woodstock”), a musician (hip-hop & soul drummer), podcaster and author, presents this compelling Black music documentary, which is a joyous celebration of the Harlem Cultural Festival, where in 1969, the same year and time period as Woodstock, it drew an estimated freebie crowd in a six-week time frame of 300,000 (it was filmed in Mount Morris Park–now Marcus Garvey Park). It’s an event that has been waiting to be discovered, one that fully captures the variety of the Black identity in music (at a time calling out for Black pride and unity) and is worth seeing for all music fans.
The diverse lineup of musicians included the following quality Black and Latin acts: Nina Simone, B.B. King, Hugh Masekella, Max Roach, Mongo Santamaría, Ray Barretto, Mahalia Jackson, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Herbie Mann, The Edward Hawkins Singers, The Chambers Brothers, Moms Mabley, Sly and the Family Stone, the Staple Singers, the Fifth Dimension and Stevie Wonder. There were others, as if this wasn’t enough talent on display.
Footage of the event was shot by TV veteran Hal Tulchin, who offered it to TV. But they refused it. So it sat for 50 years in the basement until now, when it got released through the effort of Questlove. He got it out to the public and the reward was that it took home both the US Doc Grandy Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance.
REVIEWED ON 6/1/2021 GRADE: B+