Culture / Film

‘Summer of Soul’ is the documentary shining a light on one of history’s most monumental and forgotten music festivals

Summer of Soul

When we think of monumental moments in music history, it's impossible for our minds not to be instantly transported to Woodstock. One of the most unforgettable musical festivals, Woodstock united people during a time where civil unrest and uncertainty had tainted the decade. But just 100 miles south of where the iconic festival took place; another equally monumental event in Black history, culture and fashion was also making its mark – The Harlem Cultural Festival. Now, more than five decades since the historical festival occurred, we will finally see the footage for the first time; in a new documentary, Summer of Soul.

Even the most educated names in music would be forgiven for never having heard of The Harlem Cultural Festival. In fact, the director of Summer of Soul, drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson was one of them. Back in 2019, two Hollywood producers presented him with over 40 hours of unearthed footage; that had been never been seen and had largely been forgotten.

The festival, which ran over the course of six weeks in the summer of 1969 featured history-making performances; from the likes of Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight, Sly & the Family Stone. With around 300,000 people in attendance, the festival was a transformative moment in America; and Summer of Soul is here to bring it to our screens.

Watch the trailer below.

The documentary will see the footage which was filmed in Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park), complemented by interviews and clips with major players in the industry; as well as other historical footage. Similarly to how many people view Woodstock, The Harlem Cultural Festival was representative of a time where the civil rights movement was giving long-overdue way to Black Power; a shift that was evident in the performances that took place during those six weeks.

As the official synopsis reads, 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 documentary will make its official debut at Sundance Film Festival and will be released in cinemas later this year on September 2, 2021.

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