Questlove’s ‘Summer of Soul’ Doc Sells to Searchlight, Hulu

Sundance 2021: Doc delves into the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival that drew over 300,000 attendees

Summer of Soul
Mass Distraction Media/Sundance Institute

“Summer of Soul (…Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” has become Sundance’s next major acquisition title, selling to Searchlight Pictures and Hulu.

An individual with knowledge of the deal told TheWrap it’s the biggest documentary sale in history, although no specifics were given. Another individual close to the transaction pegged the sale at $15 million. Buzz has been building around the film since its premiere last Thursday, sparking a bidding war for the documentary from The Roots bandleader Questlove. It was also the winner of the Sundance Documentary Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award.

Searchlight Pictures and Disney General Entertainment’s BIPOC Creator initiative, led by Tara Duncan, acquired the worldwide rights to “Summer of Soul,” while Hulu will exclusively stream the doc domestically and Star and Star+ will stream it internationally.

“I’m so honored to be allowed to manifest my dreams after all this time,” Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson said. “This is truly an honor. ‘Summer Of Soul’ is a passion project and to have it resonate with so many people on so many levels has been incredibly rewarding. I am very happy to begin this new chapter with the team at Searchlight/Disney/Hulu and look forward to sharing the important story behind the film with audiences worldwide.”

“Summer of Soul” documents the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival that drew over 300,000 attendees but received very little media attention compared to Woodstock. For the film, Questlove combed through 40 hours of footage of never-before-seen performances from 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.

“It’s rare to find a film that captures the breadth of the Black American experience and also makes you want to dance, testify and sing out loud,” Duncan said. “Ahmir has gifted us with a brilliantly crafted, nearly forgotten gem from our history, and we are honored to help bring ‘Summer Of Soul’ to audiences.”

Searchlight Chairmen Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula added: “Ahmir has crafted an incredible and inspiring debut film that is both timeless and relevant. We’re very proud to be involved in bringing this cultural celebration to the widest audience possible both in theaters and at home.”

“Summer of Soul” is produced by Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent and David Dinerstein with RadicalMedia serving as creative and production partners. Executive producers are Jen Isaacson, Jon Kamen, Dave Sirulnick, Jody Allen, Ruth Johnston, Rocky Collins, Jannat Gargi, Beth Hubbard, Davis Guggenheim, Laurene Powell Jobs, Jeffrey Lurie, Marie Therese Guirgis, David Barse, Ron Eisenberg, Sheila Johnson and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. Jonathan Silberberg and Nicole Stott are co-executive producers.

The film is a Vulcan Productions Production in Association with Concordia Studio, Play/Action Pictures, LarryBilly Productions, and produced by Mass Distraction Media and RadicalMedia.

Cinetic Media negotiated the deal on behalf of the producers.


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