Hawaii Mom Blog: Review: Summer of Soul




February 23, 2022

Review: Summer of Soul

Disclosure: I received a complimentary code to watch this movie.

Film Synopsis

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson presents a powerful and transporting documentary—part music film, part historical record created around an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture and fashion. Over the course of six weeks in the summer of 1969, just one hundred miles south of Woodstock, The Harlem Cultural Festival was filmed in Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park). The footage was largely forgotten–until now. Summer of Soul shines a light on the importance of history to our spiritual well-being and stands as a testament to the healing power of music during times of unrest, both past and present.  The feature includes concert performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, The 5th Dimension and more.


Watching the Summer of Soul was like watching a concert and being in a history class all at once.  It was fascinating to learn all about The Harlem Cultural Festival, which took place at the same time as Woodstock.  Most people have heard about Woodstock, but they haven't heard about The Harlem Cultural Festival.  I am one of them.

The Harlem Cultural Festival showcased a young Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Nina Simone, and more in a free multi-weekend concert for over 50,000 people of all ages.  

It is astounding that this amazing moment in time - and such a significant part of Black and musical history - was forgotten about in a basement.  The music, the newsworthy events, the fashions, the political climate of the time were captured on film, and to watch it in present day not only emphasizes how music can transcend time, but how it can help empower and motivate individuals.  

I learned so much about the history and perspectives of that time (I wasn't born yet), and watching the performances and learning about the artists was a real treat.

I especially enjoyed when some of the artists watched the footage for the first time - the raw emotion they exhibited once they realized the magnitude of the festival was so special to witness.

Summer of Soul is such a great documentary - a time capsule of a momentous time in history that should be shared with all.

Summer of Soul is available on Digital and DVD.

Bonus Features*

  • Audio Commentary – View the film with audio commentary by director Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson.
  • Soul Searching – A behind-the-scenes look at Summer of Soul. We’ll learn about where the footage from the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival has been, how it was uncovered, and why director Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson decided to tell this story now.
  • Harlem: Then & Now – We revisit Mount Morris Park, location of the Harlem Cultural Festival. We learn how the neighborhood was a crossroads of culture and precarious politics and explore why Summer of Soul is so relevant during this present time of great political upheaval.


*bonus features vary by product and retailer     

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