Questlove is speaking out about his directorial debut with “Summer of Soul,” a documentary about the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969.
Per press release, the documentary explores the legendary 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which celebrated African American music and culture and promoted black pride and unity. It was announced today that the film has been selected for the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and will premiere on day one of the festival and has also been chosen to screen in the esteemed Documentary Competition category. The Sundance Film Festival will kick off on January 28, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA.
Check out the teaser trailer below.
“The amount of anxiety of the last three years taking responsibility for this film and thinking of ideas and even trying to navigate this film in terms of the pandemic – because a big part of the editing process and interview process had to happen while we were in the middle of the pandemic – I’m just so, so relieved that it’s finally out there,” The Roots drummer (born Ahmir Khalib Thompson) told PEOPLE.
He added, “I return this film back to the people of Harlem so if nothing ever happens with this film now, I’m fine with it. The fact that I was able to take and find and restore their story and bring it back to Harlem – this means everything to me.”
The documentary features performances by Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, the Staple Singers, B.B. King, and other iconic soul artists. Speaking to PEOPLE, Questlove shared the historical significance of the event.
“I didn’t believe it ever happened because no one ever heard of the Harlem Cultural Festival,” he said. “When they finally showed me the footage, I got frightened. Wait, how could the footage be on the ground like this? And I took it like more than just a directorial debut. This was my chance to restore history and that’s more important to me. I’m a musician and I’m a historian. I’m a former college teacher and I’m all about teaching the lesson,” the 50-year-old tells PEOPLE. “I love entertaining and educating, education and entertaining – I’m bringing it back.”
It has taken over 50 years to get the film Summer Of Soul made. In 1969, during the same summer as Woodstock, a different music festival took place 100 miles away. Over 300,000 people attended the free concert series in New York City known as the Harlem Cultural Festival. The festival was filmed, but after that summer, the footage sat in a basement for five decades. Celebrating African American music and culture, and promoting black pride and unity, it has never been seen. Until now.
“It has always been a dream of mine to direct films and telling this story has truly been an amazing experience,” Questlove previously said in a statement. “I am overwhelmed and honored by the reception the film is receiving and want to give special thanks to Sundance, and my production partners: Radical Media, Vulcan Productions, Concordia, Play/Action Pictures and LarryBilly Productions.”
“Summer of Soul” will be in theaters and on Hulu July 2.
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