The first time the musician Ahmir Thompson, famous drummer of The Roots known as Questlove, stumbled upon the images from the Harlem Cultural Festival was in a bar in soul in Tokyo. It was an instant from the Sly and the Family Stone performance and Thompson was surprised not to recognize the setting. He thought it was a festival in Europe and went on with his business. Twenty years later, the producers of Summer of Soul They contacted him to tell him about “Black Woodstock”, as the festival that took place during six weeks of the summer of 1969 in Mount Morris Park, today Marcus Garvey Park, began to be called, two hours from the place where that same summer was held the macro concert that marked the Aquarian age
Rapper and DJ familiar with patchwork musicals, Questlove accepted the commission to select and reduce the 50 hours filmed by the team of director and producer Hal Tulchin, who kept material of which only a few moments were known until his death in 2017. The whole seemed of no interest to anyone. The result is close to two hours to become an exciting and unusual encounter between past and present, between image archeology. vintage, music and spirit.
So much so that the film is surrounded by an aura that borders on the miracle: the spectacular colors, the clothes of the artists and the public, the joy of the families and their vindication of the African roots, everything responds to a beauty so overwhelming that It collides with the image that is kept of those convulsive months, marked by the assassination of Martin Luther King a year earlier. Despite the hackneyed use of talking heads to put the viewer in context, Summer of Soul, Awarded at the last Sundance Festival, it is a documentary touched by the light of destiny: with it, a fundamental piece is added to the painful puzzle of the history of the African-American community in the United States.
Although music is the axis, it is equally or more relevant to be able to observe half a century later the families who flocked to that event that celebrated their culture. From grandparents to grandchildren, the mystique that surrounded the concerts is reborn intact in a film that transcends images. Because there is something therapeutic and cathartic in a film that is basically a challenge to the story, either through Nina Simone and the expression of her anger or the phrase of a character that clearly sums up the importance that this hides. rescue: “Before that festival life was in black and white, with it I discovered what color was.”