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SUMMER OF SOUL

This is a fine documentary that mixes the sights and sounds of six scintillating summer Sundays in 1969, even if the film plays it rather safe.


After the conclusion of the Woodstock Festival it took barely a year for editors to cobble together the famous documentary from hours of footage, winning an Academy Award in the process. During that same summer, in New York's Mount Morris Park, another festival happened.


With artists like Nina Simone, BB King, Sly Stone, Gladys Knight and Mahalia Jackson performing, a case could be made that this Harlem Cultural Festival was as seminal as Woodstock was. Yet it has taken 50 years for its footage to be unearthed and be included in Questlove's Summer of Soul, a fine documentary that mixes the sights and sounds of six scintillating summer Sundays in 1969 with modern interviews of those attending and performing.


The film comes up with interesting connections and quotes throughout and makes poignant remarks about black emancipation in the wake of the civil rights movement. And even if Summer of Soul plays it rather safe, the constant stream of amazing music easily irons out that flaw.


So I wouldn't be surprised if half a century after Woodstock another doc about a ground-breaking 1969 music festival will walk away with a golden statuette on Oscar Sunday.



release: 2021

director: Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson

starring: Nina Simone, BB King, Sly Stone, Gladys Knight

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