Summer of Soul: Or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised–2022 Best Documentary

SUMMER OF SOUL (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised)

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.

SUMMER OF SOUL (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised)

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, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, The 5th Dimension and more.

“Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised),” is the first official project under the recently announced Onyx Collective brand. The winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival will be released theatrically by Searchlight Pictures and will
begin streaming on Hulu in the U.S. on July 2, 2021. The film will also stream internationally through the Star offering on Disney+ on a date to be confirmed.

Summer of Soul: (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

“A song isn’t just a song. It can capture a moment in time. It will tell you a story, if you look close enough. The story of “Summer of Soul” is my voice–Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson

Stevie Wonder. Sly and the Family Stone. Nina Simone. B.B. King. The Staple Singers. The 5th Dimension. David Ruffin. Mahalia Jackson. Gladys Knight and the Pips.

Overlapping with the 1969 Woodstock festival 100 miles away, these seminal Black artists and many more performed for over
300,000 people at a once-in-a-lifetime event. From June 29th to August 24th, The Harlem Cultural Festival played for six Sundays in Harlem’s Mount Morris Park. Unlike that other music festival upstate, the footage from the Harlem Cultural Festival could not find a home that summer of 1969, and instead sat in a basement for over 50 years, keeping this momentous celebration hidden until now.

By way of intimate, newly restored footage, and recent interviews with attendees and the artists who performed, SUMMER OF SOUL documents the moment when the old school of the Civil Rights movement and new school of the Black Power movement shared the same stage, highlighted by an
array of genres including soul, R&B, gospel, blues, jazz, and Latin.

The initial directive for the festival was laid out by the City of New York and emcee Tony Lawrence, a charismatic lounge singer and performer himself, to commemorate the one-year
anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination under the banner of Black unity. New York City had thrown smaller versions of The Harlem Cultural Festival in ’67 and ’68, though the smaller events felt more like casual, block parties. But the festival in 1969 was supersized – some thought the expanded
version was intended to divert the local population from additional rioting brought on by the anniversary of King’s death. New York City Mayor John Lindsay walked the streets of Harlem in a bid to quell the unrest, and became a key backer of the festival. Television veteran Hal Tulchin was brought on
to shoot six concerts that summer, inking a sponsorship deal with Maxwell House Coffee to finance the giant production. Tulchin decided to face the stage westward to take advantage of the sun’s natural light, ultimately, so he could tape the entire festival from start to finish. Though NYPD officers were
present at each concert, Lawrence enlisted the help of the Black Panthers to act as security – to protect citizens of Harlem from the police.

New York City’s affiliate television station WNEW Metromedia Channel 5 (now FOX) broadcast two hour-long specials of the footage, but after that summer, Tulchin was told there was little interest in a “Black Woodstock.” “It was a peanuts operation because nobody really cared about Black shows,” Tulchin told Smithsonian in 2007, “but I knew it was going to be like real estate, and sooner or later someone would have interest in it.” His little-seen footage has remained in storage for the past 50 years, keeping this singular event in American history hidden – until now.