“Summer of Soul (Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s acclaimed documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, has been acquired by the Disney-owned Searchlight Pictures in a deal that also will bring the film to Hulu.
The documentary, which won both the Grand Jury prize and Audience award at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, served as the directorial debut for Thompson, who has been the drummer of hip-hop band The Roots for over three decades. “Summer of Soul” will have a theatrical release, will stream in the United States on Hulu, and will stream internationally on Star and Star+. Premiere dates have not been announced.
“I’m so honored to be allowed to manifest my dreams after all this time,” Thompson said in a statement. “This is truly an honor. ‘Summer Of Soul’ is a passion project and to have it resonate with so many people on so many levels has been incredibly rewarding. I am very happy to begin this new chapter with the team at Searchlight/Disney/Hulu and look forward to sharing the important story behind the film with audiences worldwide.
The synopsis for “Summer of Soul” reads: In 1969, during the same summer as Woodstock, a different music festival took place 100 miles away. More than 300,000 people attended the summer concert series known as the Harlem Cultural Festival. It was filmed, but after that summer, the footage sat in a basement for 50 years. It has never been seen – until now.“
“Summer Of Soul” incorporates interviews with performances by B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples, Hugh Masekela, Mongo Santamaria, Nina Simone, and Sly & the Family Stone, among many others.
“Summer of Soul” is produced by Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent, and David Dinerstein. The documentary is executive produced by Jen Isaacson, Jon Kamen, Dave Sirulnick, Jody Allen, Ruth Johnston, Rocky Collins, Jannat Gargi, Beth Hubbard, Davis Guggenheim, Laurene Powell Jobs, Jeffrey Lurie, Marie Therese Guirgis, David Barse, Ron Eisenberg, Sheila Johnson, and Thompson. Jonathan Silberberg and Nicole Stott are co-executive producers.
“Summer of Soul” has received glowing reviews from critics, including IndieWire’s Tambay Obenson, who lauded its musical performances and its in-depth exploration of the Harlem Cultural Festival in his grade A- review.
“Seething through the entire documentary, against the backdrop of a racially turbulent 1960s, is an insistence on a new kind of racial pride and unity across the diaspora, which infuses ‘Summer’ with an honesty and realism,” Obenson said in his review. “It’s explained that attendees distrusted the NYPD to the point of hiring the Black Panthers to safeguard the festival, anticipating Black Lives Matter events decades down the line. Questlove and editor Joshua L. Pearson lace together footage of stage performances with history lessons (Motown, gospel music, the evolution of Black style, the concept of a common struggle among Black people worldwide), tying it all together with endearing recollections of the single day in 1969 by those who were there. The result fans the flames of Black consciousness.”
Questlove discussed his work on “Summer of Soul” during a recent interview with IndieWire, which can be viewed below: