Friday, August 20, 2021

Summer of Soul - 4 Stars - July 2, 2021 HULU


In 1969, smooth talking producer Tony Lawrence talked New York City into hosting a six week summer music festival in Mount Morris Park (now called Marcus Garvey Park.)  The Harlem Culture Festival had political and practical motives behind it.  The city hoped the music would replace the summer riots of the 1960's.  The idea proved correct.  The shows drew hundreds of thousands of spectators and an impressive array of performers:  Gladys Knight & the Pips, Sly and the Family Stone, Nina Simone, the 5th Dimension, the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, the list goes on and on.  The performances were captured on the early form of video available in 1969, in hopes of attracting a national audience in syndication.  As it tuned out, 1969's Woodstock stole the thunder from the Harlem Cultural Festival.  A New York television station aired a couple of hours that year, and then the footage lay dormant.  Late night music host Questlove rescued the material.  As Summer of Soul's director Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson turns this footage into an  entertaining cultural history.  Summer of Soul hears from the now senior citizens who attended as young people, and from the performers, many of whom burst into tears at seeing the footage. The performances are exhilarating.  Summer of Soul stands as one of the great concert films of all time and certainly one of the best movies of the year.