Summer of Soul

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Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
Summer of Soul 2021.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAhmir "Questlove" Thompson
Produced by
  • David Dinerstein
  • Robert Fyvolent
  • Joseph Patel
CinematographyShawn Peters
Edited byJoshua L. Pearson
Distributed by
Release date
  • January 28, 2021 (2021-01-28) (Sundance)
  • June 25, 2021 (2021-06-25) (United States)
Running time
117 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.8 million[1][2]

Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is a 2021 American documentary film directed by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. It had its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival on January 28, 2021 and had a limited theatrical release in the United States on June 25, 2021, before expanding on July 2, 2021 theatrically by Searchlight Pictures and digitally via Hulu. It received acclaim from critics, with praise aimed at the footage restoration.


The documentary examines the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which was held at Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park) in Harlem and lasted for six weeks. Despite having a large attendance and performers such as Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, The 5th Dimension, The Staple Singers, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Blinky Williams, Sly and the Family Stone and the Chambers Brothers, the festival was seen as obscure in pop culture, something that the documentarians investigate.


Clapperboard for original video footage
Clapperboard from original videotape recordings of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival

Forty hours of footage of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival was recorded on videotape and later placed in a basement,[3] where it sat for about 50 years unpublished.[4] Producer Robert Fyvolent became aware of the footage, and eventually acquired film and television rights to the footage from its original producer, Hal Tulchin.[5] Thompson expressed surprise that the footage sat for so long, as music had a large impact on his life and development, stating "What would have happened if this was allowed a seat at the table? How much of a difference would that have made in my life? That was the moment that extinguished any doubt I had that I could do this."[6]


Summer of Soul premiered on January 28, 2021 at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the US Documentary Competition.[7] The film was acquired by Searchlight Pictures and Hulu. It was released in the United States at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles and the AMC Magic Johnson Harlem 9 multiplex in New York City on June 25, 2021 before expanding nationwide a week later while also being released on Hulu,[8] with the film also set to be distributed internationally in theaters and through Disney+ Hotstar on July 30, 2021, and Disney+ under the Star content hub and Star+ on October 1st 2021.[9][10]

On April 22, 2021, it was announced that Questlove would introduce the first trailer for the film during the 93rd Academy Awards, for which he served as music director. The trailer debuted on April 25, 2021.[11]


Box office[edit]

In the film's wide opening weekend it grossed $650,000 from 752 theaters, a per-venue average of $865.[12]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 99% based on 189 reviews, with an average rating of 9.1/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Deftly interweaving incredible live footage with a series of revealing interviews, Summer of Soul captures the spirit and context of a watershed moment while tying it firmly to the present."[13] According to Metacritic, which assigned a weighted average score of 96 out of 100 based on 38 critics, the film received "universal acclaim".[14] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a rare "A+" average grade.[12]

Rolling Stone praised the film as "the Perfect Movie to Kick Off Sundance 2021" and that it was "an incredible, vital act of restoration — and reclamation".[15] The Guardian gave Summer of Soul five stars, stating that there was "a moment so striking and rich with power at the center of Ahmir 'Questlove' Thompson's Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) that, while watching it, I actually forgot to breathe."[16]

British critic Mark Kermode, himself a documentarian of music in cinema called the film "the best music documentary I've ever seen" in his review for Kermode and Mayo's Film Review on BBC Radio 5 Live.[17]


  • Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival (2021, won)[4]
  • Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival (2021, won)[4]


  1. ^ "Summer of Soul (2021)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 27, 2021.
  2. ^ "Summer of Soul (2021)". The Numbers. Retrieved August 27, 2021.
  3. ^ "Exclusive: Questlove On Directorial Debut 'Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)'". The Knockturnal. 2021-07-12. Retrieved 2021-07-15.
  4. ^ a b c Minsker, Evan (2 February 2021). "Questlove's Summer of Soul Documentary Wins Sundance 2021 Grand Jury Prize". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2021-02-05.
  5. ^ Jackson, Jazz Tangcay, Angelique; Tangcay, Jazz; Jackson, Angelique (2021-01-28). "How Questlove's 'Summer of Soul' Tracked Down Rare Footage of the Landmark Harlem Cultural Festival". Variety. Retrieved 2021-07-15.
  6. ^ Lindahl, Chris (2021-02-02). "Questlove on Building 'Summer of Soul' Around Awe-Inspiring Musical Moments". IndieWire. Retrieved 2021-02-05.
  7. ^ Goodman, Stephanie (2021-02-03). "Questlove's 'Summer of Soul' Wins at Sundance". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-02-05.
  8. ^ Jackson, Angelique (2021-02-05). "Searchlight Pictures and Hulu Pick Up Questlove's Sundance Winner 'Summer of Soul'". Variety. Retrieved 2021-02-05.
  9. ^ Patten, Dominic (5 February 2021). "Disney's Searchlight & Hulu Snag 'Summer Of Soul' Doc; Questlove's Directorial Debut Won Sundance Grand Jury Prize". Deadline. the music-themed documentary is set for a theatrical release as well as streaming on Hulu in America and internationally on Star and Star+
  10. ^ Disney+ Hotstar ID [@DisneyPlusID] (July 12, 2021). "Sebuah festival musik bersejarah yang belum pernah ditayangkan sebelumnya. Menampilkan Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, dan masih banyak lagi. Stream dokumenter spesial yang disutradarai @questlove, Summer of Soul, mulai 30 Juli di #DisneyPlusHotstarID!" [A historic music festival that has never been seen before, featuring Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, and many more. Summer of Soul, a special documentary film directed by @questlove, streaming July 30 on #DisneyPlusHotstarID!] (Tweet) (in Indonesian). Retrieved July 21, 2021 – via Twitter.
  11. ^ "'West Side Story' Trailer to Debut During Oscars Broadcast". TheWrap. 2021-04-22. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  12. ^ a b Goldsmith, Jill (July 4, 2021). "Questlove's 'Summer of Soul' Sees $650K Three-Day Weekend Opener At Specialty Box Office". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 4, 2021.
  13. ^ "Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (2021)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  14. ^ "Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  15. ^ Fear, David (2021-01-29). "'Summer of Soul' Is the Perfect Movie to Kick Off Sundance 2021". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2021-02-05.
  16. ^ "Summer of Soul review – thrilling documentary reveals a forgotten festival". the Guardian. 2021-01-29. Retrieved 2021-02-05.
  17. ^ Kermode, Mark (July 16, 2021). Vanessa Kirby, The Croods 2: A New Age, The Forever Purge and Summer of Soul. BBC. Event occurs at 1:22:50. Retrieved August 23, 2021.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]