The summer of 1969 will be remembered for so many reasons. From the moon landing to political activism and change and of course the music that we still enjoy today. But somewhere in the shuffle of time The Harlem Cultural Festival isn’t talked about, and almost erased from history. While the event took place over six weeks, and there is footage from it – it’s a little known festival outside of from the local area and by people who attended.
Focusing on Black culture, art, music and fashion, the festival brought in thousands of attendees and helped change how many generations saw music, artists and more. And yet – it’s not an event that we hear about, or are taught about. The Harlem Cultural Festival has been equated to the Black Woodstock – and until seeing this documentary – it’s one that I had never heard of.
Summer of Soul not only features The Harlem Cultural Festival, showing footage from the festival as it happened. But it also interviews attendees, artists and even people who were involved in creating and promoting the event. It gives an insiders look at the event and how it not only featured some of the biggest names at the time, but kick-started careers, brought out political and cultural issues at the time, and how it helped shape generations.
One of the best things that Summer of Soul does is gives music lovers just what they want. The clips of the musicians are blended perfectly in between the interviews. They give you enough to enjoy the music, sing along and enjoy while learning more about this little talked about festival. It perfectly encapsulates a moment in time, and one that we wish we could have experienced.
Searchlight Pictures is releasing Summer of Soul in select theaters today. The film is also in partnership with the Onyx Collection and will be available on Hulu as well.
About Summer of Soul
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, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, The 5th Dimension and more.
Directed by Amir ‘Questlove’ Thompson