After a triumphant premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, where it won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, music documentary Summer of Soul is headed to Hulu on July 2 in conjunction with Disney’s new BIPOC Creator Initiative. The film is the feature filmmaking debut of none other than Roots legend Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, cataloging a powerful but sadly forgotten chapter in American musical history—the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969. As the synopsis reads:
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. The feature 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.
The festival was attended by more than 300,000 people, but received none of the attention or enduring cultural canonization of the nearby Woodstock. Summer of Soul was one of our top 10 films of Sundance 2021, and as we wrote back in February:
“Featuring an immense catalogue of footage that sat in a basement virtually untouched for 50 years, Summer of Soul acts as an interrogation of what the absence of these materials has meant for the subsequent generation of Black artists, including Questlove himself. Despite the apparent cultural amnesia that followed the event (at least among non-Black Americans), the Harlem Cultural Festival easily overshadowed a ubiquitous moment in American history: The 1969 moon landing. Archival interviews with several attendees reveal that for many Black Americans, the moon landing was not seen as a boundary-pushing event worth celebrating. Catching Stevie Wonder’s set, on the other hand, was. Considering the undeniable essence of colonialism that space travel entails, who can blame them?”
Check out the instantly uplifting teaser for Summer of Soul below. The documentary hits Hulu on July 2, 2021.