Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised) (2021)

June 6th, Movie 7

I have been looking forward to watching Summer of Soul for quite awhile now. I wanted to watch it back around Oscar time, but I decided that I would wait until June for the June Swoon to finally watch it. It was easy to find on Disney + and I placed it on my watchlist. Today, I finally loaded up the Oscar winning documentary from Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson from the Roots.

Questlove’s documentary told the story of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which took place on six Sundays between June 29 and August 24 in Harlem, New York. The documentary is told through footage of the event that had never been seen, as well as news footage and present day interviews of artists involved.

Some of the greatest black entertainers of the time participated in the festival including Stevie Wonder, The Fifth Dimension, B.B. King, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Sly and the Family Stone, The Staple Singers, Mavis Staples, Blinky Williams, Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, and The Chambers Brothers.

There is more to this documentary than just playing the footage from 1969 and letting the remarkable moments sell your show. The film does a great job of showing how significant piece of history this was despite how few people in the cultural zeitgeist remembered. Interviews with the artists and others involved really compliment the ride that we are on with this fantastic music. We hear from Jesse Jackson and the Mayor of New York among others.

The film also showed the cultural significance and how this music was the soundtrack to the civil rights battle and the importance of finding a voice of a revolution.

It is two hours of entertainment that can also open up the thoughts of a generation. It was an exceptional documentary.

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