Questlove’s documentary “Summer of Soul” uncovers 50-year-old, never-before-seen footage of the Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969 that attracted thousands and featured legendary performances but was ignored by the media and neglected by history.
All that changes with “Summer of Soul…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised,” and the first trailer for Questlove’s Sundance-winning documentary features a glimpse of some of the pristine performances, including those by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone and many more.
A teaser version of the trailer debuted during a commercial break for the Oscars with an introduction by Questlove, who was also the Academy Awards musical director and came after Questlove played a game of Oscars trivia that resulted in Glenn Close twerking to the song “Da Butt.”
“Summer of Soul” is part concert movie and part civil rights history, marrying the energy (and color!) of the performances with the emotional upheaval of the late ’60s in New York. In speaking with TheWrap when the film premiered at Sundance this January, Questlove said he was stunned by not just the footage but the fact that such an enormous event even existed and seemed forgotten to history.
“Then they started saying the lineup and I’m like you’re trying to tell me that there was a time in 1969 where there was a recorded documented concert with Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone, the Staple singers, and Nina Simone, and about 20 other artists of note, BB King, and you’re trying to tell me that there was a concert and I didn’t a hear a peep about it?” Questlove said. “So that got my curiosity that was the bait and then when they came back to show me the footage, I was like there was no way possible you’re trying to tell me that this didn’t at least a rumor of it getting out, that sort of thing, sure enough it’s it’s been sitting on the basement for 50 years.”
“Summer of Soul” was an instant hit at Sundance, winning both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for a documentary, and Searchlight acquired the film in a record deal out of the festival for a documentary film for $15 million.
The film was also the directorial debut for The Roots bandleader, and Questlove has already set his follow-up feature documentary with another film about Sly Stone of Sly and the Family Stone.
“Summer of Soul” opens in theaters on July 2. Check out the first look here and above.