Run time: 117 mins
Musician Questlove marks his directorial debut with this stunning documentary feature.
Over two months in 1969, during the same summer as Woodstock, more than 300,000 people attended the Harlem Cultural Festival. The event was captured on video, but plans to air it were scrapped and the footage was forgotten in a basement for 50 years. Summer of Soul dusts off the reels to blend a series of staggering performances with firsthand reminiscences that encompass the headlines and social issues of the period.
A star-studded line-up includes Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, BB King and Gladys Knight and the Pips. Their urgent, energetic sets are accompanied by newsreel clips and narrated by those who attended the event as teens, fully aware that it was organised to contain the rage of oppressed communities that had erupted a year earlier after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Both the attendees and artists express how it felt to be involved in the festival. Everyone recognises it wasn’t just about the music.
A remarkably textured and deeply involving concert film that explores the importance of embracing the truth of history in order to move forward. (Chris Coetsee)