The 93rd Academy Awards ceremony was given a little life last night thanks to Questlove, who served as music director and DJ throughout the evening. During the ceremony, he introduced the first teaser trailer for his directorial debut, Summer of Soul. Part concert film and part historical record, the documentary focuses on the massive Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969, a celebration of Black history, culture and fashion that featured performances by some legendary musical acts. Watch the Summer of Soul trailer below.
Summer of Soul Trailer
Summer of Soul includes never-before-seen concert performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Ray Baretto, Abbey Lincoln & Max Roach and more, all from a historic festival that would eventually be overshadowed by the wild Woodstock concert that same summer. In fact, the Harlem Cultural Festival unfolded just 100 miles south of where Woodstock took place and lasted six whole weeks.
The documentary debuted at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, and it ended up winning both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award. In his review from the fest, our own Ben Pearson said the film “allows the audience to revel in the music, the atmosphere, and the uninhibited Blackness of this forgotten festival.” But he also praised the other side of the documentary for “using certain songs and musical acts as jumping-off points to explore the social and political changes that they represented (or, in some cases, helped inspire).” Sounds like a must-see doc to me.
Here’s the official synopsis for Summer of Soul:
In his acclaimed debut as a filmmaker, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson presents a powerful and transporting documentary—part music film, part historical record created around an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture and fashion. Over the course of six weeks in the summer of 1969, just one hundred miles south of Woodstock, The Harlem Cultural Festival was filmed in Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park). The footage was never seen and largely forgotten–until now. SUMMER OF SOUL shines a light on the importance of history to our spiritual well-being and stands as a testament to the healing power of music during times of unrest, both past and present.
Summer of Soul will arrive both on the big screen in select theaters and on Hulu starting on July 2, 2021, making for an excellent way to celebrate Independence Day weekend this year.
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