“Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is a feature documentary about the legendary 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival which celebrated African American music and culture, and promoted Black pride and unity.”

Director: Questlove
Release Date: July 2, 2021

Just going to bit a bullet on this one. I do not love Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). I understand that it is a front runner for the Best Documentary Academy Award, but as a movie I did not connect with it on visceral level.

The backstory to the Summer Of Soul is fascinating. The same summer that Woodstock was taking place, there were was the Harlem Cultural Festival taking place at Mount Morris Park. The entire thing was captured on film with a very low budget, but the footage and audio had never been brought to life, until now. There are numerous notable names and groups performing at this festival, and Summer Of Soul lets their voices shine and uses them to illuminate the black culture and movement happening during that time.

There is no denying that the music in Summer Of Soul is the best facet of the movie. There are songs I knew that I was finally able to put faces on. If you are a fan of this music, then this movie will be a nirvana for you and you will probably want to murder me. The editing done by Questlove and his team to incorporate the interviews conducted during full song performances is seamless, for the most part. This documentary lets the artists shine the most, and that makes sense with who is helming this project.

The struggle that I personally have with Summer Of Soul is that the visuals of it are not striking. I am not in awe of the crowd. The fact that all of this archived footage exists is remarkable, but the standard television crowd shots get repetitive. I was drawn back into the audience shots when the topic of the fashion was brought up and the editors did a good job highlighting such things amongst the cohorts, but otherwise it is the same standard shots.

Perhaps my head is warped because of The Ringer’s Woodstock 99: Peace, Love And Rage (2021) and the supremely disturbing crowd shots that highlighted the madness at that event. Yes, the Harlem Festival was preaching for peace and had a lot of religious undertones (another reason it was hard for me to connect), which is a very different vibe than the York, NY madness that took place decades later.

ummer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is a good documentary. It is not like Misha And The Wolves (2021) where I had problems with the construction and point of view. It is objectively good, and it is the front runner to win the Oscar. I personally did not have the emotional connection to it, but that is a me problem. Questlove did make something worth celebrating, and I think he will be come the Oscars when his name and movie gets called.

STANKO RATING: B- (3.0/5 Stars)


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