“Documentary about the legendary 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival which celebrated African-American music and culture and promoted Black pride and unity.” -IMDB
This documentary, spearheaded by legendary musical genius Questlove, is an ode to music. Let me clarify…
Summer of Soul focuses on the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, a legendary celebration of Black culture, music, and pride. Although it has been largely overshadowed by that other major music festival that took place that same year, it is clear that the HCF was an important cultural milestone in the age of change that was the 1960s.
It is also clear that the festival was a major influence on Questlove and his love of music. This can be seen throughout the film, as you are afforded the pleasure of watching unedited song performances by Sly and the Family Stone and Stevie Wonder, to name a few. Questlove invites you in and guide you through the experience that was the HCF, helping the viewer discover why this festival was such an important safe space for individuals who were rarely afforded one.
I can get drawn into the darker parts of the documentary genre, which feature true crime, global fraud schemes, or impending catastrophes. It was a welcome relief to watch a documentary that is such a celebration. As you see the smiles of the festival’s performers and audience members, you can’t help but find yourself smiling from your couch. And if you don’t at least tap your feet along to the incredible music in this documentary, then you may need to check on your own soul!
Rating: 8 out of 10 Claire Bears
If you like this movie, you should also watch: Monterey Pop, The Last Waltz
Streaming: Disney+, Hulu
Directed By: Questlove