The first trailer for the upcoming documentary “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” aired during the 93rd Academy Awards on Sunday night.
Marking the directorial debut of “The Roots” drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, the documentary examines the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which lasted for six weeks at Mount Morris Park (now known as Marcus Garvey Park). More than 300,000 attended the large festival, which featured performers such as Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and Sly and the Family Stone. Only located 100 miles away, Woodstock took place two weeks after the Harlem festival, overshadowing the importance of the festival to the Black community.
Questlove introduced the trailer from his special DJ booth at the Oscars, and told Variety last week that the pandemic gave him the time to direct it.
“Woodstock happens in two weeks after this and it defines a lifestyle, it defines a generation,” he said in an interview with Variety earlier this year. “Woodstock, the city name alone, just defines a whole movement. And I kept wondering what would have went down if this were allowed to happen for [Black people]. If this were allowed to unfurl and spread across the world as Woodstock did, how much of a difference could that have made in my life as a music lover and as a music collector? So, then I just felt this the sense of purpose that I have to tell the story.”
Most of the footage from the Harlem festival never saw the light of day and was left to sit in a basement for 50 years. Completed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Questlove’s documentary unveils the epic event that radiated the wholesale reevaluation of Black history, culture, fashion and music.
Opening to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival in January, the film won both the grand jury prize and audience award in the documentary categories. Disney’s Searchlight Pictures acquired the film for more than $12 million, marking the biggest price tag for a documentary in the festival’s history. The record was previously held by Apple and A24 after acquiring “Boys State” at Sundance last year for $10 million.
“Summer of Soul” will be released both theatrically and on Hulu on July 2.