NEW IN THEATERS! I have lived in New York City for about 13 years, though it’s not my home state. That would be Georgia, a totally different animal. However, everything about me and my personality fit into the “New York state of mind,” so to speak. Whenever there’s any kind of film that highlights anything NYC related, I almost always want to see it. So is the case for Summer of Soul (…Or When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised). Add that Questlove from the legendary band The Roots is making his directorial debut, and it’s a 100% given I will watch it.
“…a deep-dive expedition of the cultural landscape in which the Harlem Cultural Festival occurred…”
In 1969, a pivotal year in American cultural history, there was a music festival. I’m sure you’re all like, “yeah, duh, Woodstock.” Which, yeah, Woodstock did ALSO happen in 1969. However, the festival I’m talking about is much lesser-known, and until now, most footage had been relegated to the dustbin of history: the Harlem Cultural Festival. It took place over the course of a few weekends in July, and I am beyond jealous of anyone who was able to attend. A few of the acts performing were Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & The Family Stone, The Staples Singers, and Max Roach. That is seriously just one iota of the cornucopia of talent on display.
Ahmir-Khalib “Questlove” Thompson doesn’t just show us concert footage in Summer of Soul (…Or When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised). He takes us into a deep-dive expedition of the cultural landscape in which the Harlem Cultural Festival occurred. 1969 was a year where many cultural upheavals took place, especially within black and brown communities. Particularly in places like Harlem. The Black Panthers and The Young Lords had a massive impact on these communities. They encouraged people to embrace their blackness and celebrate it, rather than assimilate into homogenized white culture. The festival was an event showing the change within black communities to the rest of the country and the world. It took place in Mt. Morris Park, and it’s safe to say, based on the interviews with the attendees and performers, that this was a life-changing event for many.
"…the government is still out of touch with the needs of the people."