Categories: Music

Questlove’s ‘Summer of Soul’ Wins Sundance Film Festival’s Top Prize for Documentaries

Summer of Soul unearths 50-year-old footage from the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival.

Questlove has hit another career milestone. The Roots drummer’s directorial debut, Summer of Soul, topped nine other films to win the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for documentaries at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised,) unearths 50-year-old footage from the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, also known as, the “Black Woodstock.” It features performances from Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, Sly & The Family Stone, Nina Simone, and more. “It has always been a dream of mine to direct films and telling this story has truly been an amazing experience,” said the freshly-minted director in a statement. Questlove also offered a far less formal response to the documentary’s win on Twitter (see below.)

“The most astounding discovery I had doing this film was that all these great talents gathered and gave their time and their energy and their creativity to this festival. This is three months before Woodstock happened. And it was recorded and documented and when it was over, just like that, it was done in a flash. Nobody cared,” said Questlove in a brief breakdown of the project for Sundance. Summer of Soul also took home Sundance’s Audience Award for documentaries at this year’s festival.

This year’s festival went the way of most things in the COVID era, shifting to a virtual format. Screenings began on January 28th and ran through today, February 3rd. There are still a handful of films showing throughout the day. You can check Sundance’s site for any last-minute screenings.

Watch Questlove discuss the inspiration behind Summer of Soul below and hold tight for updates on a nationwide release of the film in the weeks and months ahead.


Zo is a staff writer at Okayplayer where he covers music.

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