Ahmir Thompson, better known as Questlove, is set to make his feature directorial debut on the documentary film “Black Woodstock” about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. The film’s producers Robert Fyvolent and David Dinerstein announced Monday that the film has begun production.
The festival held in Harlem’s Mount Morris Park in 1969 drew 300,000 attendees and was and known locally as the “Black Woodstock,” and yet it received almost no attention from the media in comparison to Woodstock. Even so, the outdoor festival featured performances from luminaries such as Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone, Nina Simone, B.B. King, the Staple Singers, the 5th Dimension, David Ruffin, Mahalia Jackson and Gladys Knight and the Pips.
The documentary will be derived from 40 hours of never-before-seen footage shot by TV producer Hal Tulchin, who kept the footage in storage for the past 50 years.
“I am truly excited to help bring the passion, the story and the music of the Harlem Cultural Festival to audiences around the world,” Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson said in a statement. “The performances are extraordinary. I was stunned when I saw the lost footage for the first time. It’s incredible to look at 50 years of history that’s never been told, and I’m eager and humbled to tell that story.”
“The music and performances in Black Woodstock will knock audiences out of their seats,” producers Dinerstein and Fyvolent said. “The footage is unusually rich in texture and feel. We are so proud to be working alongside Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson on his directorial debut. We are confident he will bring an authenticity and unique vision to the film. We are thrilled to partner with some of the best people and organizations working in the documentary space today including Vulcan Productions, Concordia Studio, Play/Action Pictures and RadicalMedia.”
Producers Fyvolent and Dinerstein have tapped RadicalMedia (“What Happened, Miss Simone?”) as creative and production partners, with Jon Kamen and Dave Sirulnick serving as executive producers. The film is co-produced by Vulcan Productions. Concordia Studio, Play/Action Pictures and Beth Hubbard will also serve as executive producers. Joseph Patel will serve as a producer with Joshua L. Pearson on board as editor and Randall Poster as the music supervisor.
The 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival was organized and produced by Tony Lawrence, who also served as the master of ceremonies. The idea behind this festival, which took place one year after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, was to celebrate African American music, culture and politics, and to promote black pride and unity.
Questlove is the drummer and one of the members of the R&B and hip hop band The Roots, which serves as the house band for “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” He’s also a DJ and entrepreneur and is a four-time Grammy winner who has directed projects with D’Angelo, Eminem and Jay-Z. He most recently wrote his fourth book “Mixtape Potluck” and is executive producing the documentary series “Hip-Hop: The Songs The Shook America” on AMC under his production company Two One Five Entertainment.
Variety first reported news of the project.