May 17, 2021

SCREEN | Questlove Remembers 'Summer of Soul' x DOXA 2021

"They call it freedom music, because it's what freedom feels like."
Ahmir 'Questlove' Thompson | Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised) | DOXA 2021
DOXA Documentary Film Festival
The Roots drummer Questlove (aka Ahmir Thompson) makes his directorial debut remembering the landmark Harlem Cultural Festival, often called "Black Woodstock" because it took place the same summer in 1969 as the iconic music festival some hundred miles away, in the joyful music documentary Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised).

Over six weekends of free shows, the festival created by Harlemite singer Tony Lawrence attracted 300,000 attendees yet almost no media attention. And so, it became largely forgotten in time with little cultural footprint or awareness. Shot professionally by festival producer Hal Tulchin, the forty hours of lost footage languished unseen for fifty years until now yet it looks and sounds better than ever.

How the archival material captures the climate of the time in the aftermath of Black mourning after the deaths of JFK, RFK, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X speaks so much to the culture of radical pride in Harlem at the time. We get to see how the music reflected the African-American political culture.

Questlove's electrifying jawn is such a celebratory time capsule and reflection of not only Black history but a reminder of the struggle of all people of colour from fifty years ago. Summer of Soul tells so much about the intersection of our twentieth-century political awakening by focusing so singularly on the music. Think of it like the coolest history lesson possible.

Summer of Soul screened virtually as part of the 2021 DOXA Documentary Film Festival online. It will be available to stream on Disney+ Star in Canada (and Hulu in the U.S.) starting July 2nd.

More | YVArcade / Indiewire / Slashfilm / Stir / Straight

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