Summer Of Soul (Subtitled) (12A)Genre: Documentary
Author(s): Ahmir 'Questlove' Thompson
Director: Ahmir 'Questlove' Thompson
Release Date: 16/07/2021 (selected cinemas)
Running Time: 117mins
In the summer of 1969, almost 100 miles from Woodstock, Tony Lawrence hosted the inaugural Harlem Cultural Festival - a series of five concerts in Mount Morris Park headlined respectively by The Fifth Dimension, Mahalia Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Mongo Santamaria and Nina Simone. Restored footage of the concerts forms the spine of this documentary, which reminisces about a pivotal moment in time, which brought together the people of Harlem and captured a mood of change sweeping across America.
LondonNet Film Review
Summer Of Soul (12A)
In August 1969, a dairy farm in Bethel, New York, attracted huge crowds to a rock festival billed as “3 Days of Peace & Music” featuring performances from Joan Baez, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Arlo Guthrie, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin and The Who. The free-loving image of Woodstock was immortalised in a 1970 documentary directed by Michael Wadleigh and an accompanying film soundtrack…
The same summer, almost 100 miles south-east of Bethel, large crowds flocked to Mount Morris Park for the inaugural Harlem Cultural Festival masterminded by Tony Lawrence. Concerts headlined by The Fifth Dimension, Mahalia Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Mongo Santamaria and Nina Simone were also recorded for posterity but hours of precious film stock languished unseen in a basement for more than 50 years. The so-called Black Woodstock was largely forgotten, except by those who attended.
Lovingly restored footage from 1969 forms the spine of an exuberant documentary directed by musician Ahmir Khalib Thompson, aka Questlove, told in the words of festival performers and members of the public, who flocked to see their idols and party at “the ultimate black barbecue”. Summer Of Soul reminisces about a pivotal moment in time, which brought together the people of Harlem and captured a mood of change sweeping across America in the aftermath of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. “The point of the festival may very well have been to stop folks tearing up the city,” suggests one contributor to the film, referring to riots and unrest in the largest African-American neighbourhood in Manhattan.
Performances by the likes of Abbey Lincoln & Max Roach, BB King, David Ruffin, The Edwin Hawkins Singers, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Hugh Masekela, Moms Mabley, Ray Barretto, Sly And The Family Stone and The Staple Singers are tightly interwoven with personal testimonies and reflections. “The point of music is to hold a mirror to ourselves and tell our stories,” says Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda flanked by his father, Luis Miranda, as they affirm the unity between black and Latin people.
Summer Of Soul is, to quote one nostalgic interviewee, “like a rose coming through the concrete”. The thorns of social and political upheaval are clearly visible: in news footage, festival-goers dismiss the Moon landing during one concert as a waste of money when communities in Harlem are crying out for financial support. Questlove strikes gold when he records musical artists watching themselves for the first time. Billy Davis Jr and Marilyn McCoo from The Fifth Dimension are rendered speechless and misty-eyed by their rendition of Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In from the musical Hair. They break the silence with an amusing anecdote about the song’s inception courtesy of a misplaced wallet. The sunshine comes flooding in.
– Jo Planter
UK and Irish Cinemas Showing Summer Of Soul (Subtitled)
From: Friday 23rd July
To: Thursday 5th August
From: Friday 6th August
To: Thursday 12th August
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