#SUNDANCE: “SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED)”
Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
This Documentary recalls summer concert series, The Harlem Cultural Festival which took place in 1969. The event was one that celebrated Black culture and music; however, many don’t know about it. That’s because reporters decided to cover Woodstock which happened the same year. So the footage of the Harlem Cultural Festival has sat in a basement for 50 years. Until now.
Director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson brings the Harlem Cultural Festival to the screen through archival footage and recent interviews with those who attended the Festival. The use of the never-before-seen archival footage brings us right into the beauty of the summer series. We experience watching musicians such as Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, and more. We listen to their music but also their inspiring words.
Additionally, the archival footage shows us what the Media’s focus was on at the time and the experiences of people living in Harlem. The Media was focused on the successes of white America, such as the landing on the moon. While those attending the Festival were focused on how the Government could allocate money to help diminish the high rates of poverty.
The recent interviews are powerful. The Musicians were honoured to be there to celebrate Black culture and music. The attendees, there were over 300,000 people who attended that summer, speak about how it felt to be celebrating themselves. During the interviews, Thompson plays the footage. In doing so, you watch emotional moments as they relive one of the most special times in their lives.
Summer of Soul finally brings this Festival to the screen and has a strong message. It’s an examination of the importance of history to the human spirit. The Harlem Cultural Festival celebrated the Black Community and for 50 years it has been erased from history. When history is ignored it hinders the hearts of minds of those who lived through it, but also generations that follow.
Summer of Soul (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED) screens at Sundance:
Live Premiere: January 28 at 10 PM (EST)
On-Demand (available for 24 hours): January 30 at 10 AM (EST)