Summer Of Soul revives the ‘Black Woodstock’ that was never televised

Summer Of Soul is the new documentary film that you *have* to watch while the sunshine is upon us.

“Are you ready to listen to all the beautiful Black voices, the beautiful Black feelings, the beautiful Black waves moving in beautiful air?” 

This was the question that legendary singer Nina Simone greeted an energetic crowd with at The Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969. Held over a course of six weeks in Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park), the festival celebrated Black history, culture and fashion, and was labelled the ‘Black Woodstock’. 

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Stevie Wonder, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King and The 5th Dimension were just some of the other Black artists who took to the stage for some incredible live performances.

It sounds absolutely epic, right? And yet, although the event was filmed by TV producer Hal Tulchin and his small crew, the footage was never fully broadcast… until now. 

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Summer Of Sove (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is the acclaimed debut by filmmaker Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who uses Tulchin’s nearly-forgotten footage. It’s being described as “a powerful and transporting documentary – part music film, part historical record created around an epic event.” It has won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival. 

In an interview with The Guardian, Thompson said: “This was my chance to correct history.”

Watch the trailer for Summer Of Soul

How fun does this look? We’ve got chills just from hearing the screams and cheers of dancing crowds. But, of course, there is a more serious narrative to this mind-blowing concert. “1969 wasn’t just about the music,” Gladys Knight says as we’re reminded about the sense of revolution that was in the air for Black communities at the time.

This is exactly the type of production that needs to be seen on the big screen and with surround sound – a true celebration of the return of cinemas (Electric Cinema, Rich Mix, Curzon Cinemas and Picture Houses are screening it). And, now that the sun is out again, Summer Of Soul is also the perfect film to watch at an outdoor cinema (you can book at Archlight Cinema in Battersea). 

It is also now available to stream on Hulu and it is coming to Disney+ on a date that is yet to be confirmed. If you do stream it at home, make sure you’re ready to do some living room dancing and singing (and maybe warn the neighbours). 

Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is available to watch on Hulu and is showing at selected cinemas now.

Images: Mass Distraction Media 

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