Summer of Soul (... Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (2021)
While the highly mythologized Woodstock musical festival banged away in upstate New York (August 15 to 18, 1969), just 100 miles south back down in Harlem an equally epic cultural moment took place but went largely unnoticed and forgotten. The Harlem Cultural Festival took place from June 29 to August 24. It featured the biggest names in black music—Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, BB King, David Ruffin, The Fifth Dimension, The Staple Singers, Sly and the Family Stone, Gladys Knight and the Pips, etc. The six free concerts were attended by some 300,000 blacks. The festival was actually filmed, but the forty hours of video tapes languished in a basement for 50 years because television and film companies weren't interested. Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson has now turned those tapes into his directorial debut. This movie is so many wonderful things — an act of historical retrieval from something like blatant erasure, a moment of music history, a celebration of black culture, an affirmation of gospel music in and by the black community, and a political statement in a pivotal year in American history. Summer of Soul premiered at the Sundance festival (January 28, 2021), where it won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award. When I watched the film on Hulu, it had a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 181 reviews.
Dan Clendenin: firstname.lastname@example.org