The first trailer for Questlove's documentary Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) premiered Sunday night during the 93rd Academy Awards broadcast, and is set to arrive in theaters July 2nd. The film will also be made available for streaming the same day on both Hulu and Disney+.
The documentary focuses on the much lesser-known Harlem Cultural Festival, which was dubbed the "Black Woodstock," and even took place the same year during the summer of 1969. Unlike the widely known Woodstock Music Festival that took place over the course of three days, the Harlem Cultural Festival lasted six whole weeks, and attracted the likes of Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight & The Pips, and Sly and the Family Stone to its stage. Despite the presence of world-famous artists and attendance numbers to rival that of Woodstock, the festival was seen as little more than an obscure pop culture phenomenon, something that the documentary looks to investigate.
In addition to exclusive interviews and archived performance footage that has gone unpublished for more than fifty years, the film also looks to explore the cultural implications that the festival had for the people of Harlem, and deep dive into other issues that plagued the Harlem community, such as a strong distrust of the NYPD; so much so that Black Panthers were hired as event security.
The film premiered back in January of 2021 to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival where it won both the Grand Jury Prize, along with the Audience Award, and was subsequently bought by Searchlight Pictures for a record breaking 12-million dollars. In addition, the film currently holds a 100% score on RottonTomatoes, with critical consensus praising the film for deftly weaving live footage with revealing interviews, all while tying the events to the present.
Hip-hop drummer and Summer of Soul director Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson originally began work on the film in early 2020 during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, and while this is his first outing directing film, Thompson has not only spent years curating music festival, but acting as the musical director for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.In addition to his work with hip-hop group The Roots, Thompson has also made a successful career as a producer, writer, and actor, and most recently was bestowed the the title of Musical Director for the 93rd Academy Awards. Going forward, Thompson has already expressed interest in continuing to bridge film and music, and has already started work on a second documentary chronicling Sly and the Family Stone.
"Ahmir has crafted an incredible and inspiring debut film that is both timeless and relevant," said Searchlight chairmen Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula "We're very proud to be involved in bringing this cultural celebration to the widest audience possible both in theaters and at home." Summer of Soulwill be available for streaming on Hulu and Disney+ on July 2nd, and also receive a limited theatrical run for anyone who wants to experience the history of the Harlem Cultural Festival on the big-screen.