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Criticism | Summer of Soul: documentary saves black music festival ignored by American history

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Watched movie during the 2021 Sundance Film Festival

In the midst of a sunny summer, the most diverse facets of black music have come together on one stage to celebrate the color black, erased and ignored by American history. Different tones, but all of one race, these artists sang for their own, celebrated the blackness that exudes beauty in their hair of various curvatures and different shapes, and communicated with black families, from children to the elderly. Through the voices of people like Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson and even the Christian worship ministry, Edwin Hawkin Singers, Summer of Soul was much more than a music festival. A manifesto of a people still mourning the death of Martin Luther King Jr., the event marked an entire community, but was ignored by its own nation. But at the hands of new filmmaker Questlove, it comes to life in the brilliant documentary Summer of Soul (… Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised).

The Summer of Soul festival began in the midst of the infamous Woodstock. With absolutely different premises and disparate goals, the event that celebrated darkness and was recorded in New York’s Harlem neighborhood has been forgotten by the press and time. “Sold” like “Black Woodstock,” he didn’t seem important, even though his values ​​transcended all the subversive excuses preached by the popular event in which whites were participating and promoted. And without the necessary support and publicity, the meeting of the most popular black music artists was suspended and remained so for 50 years. But as the multi-faceted artist Questlove began his career as a filmmaker, the well-groomed film reels were dusted off and could finally be seen in the spotlight, under the exceptional lens and direction of a black man. who could not resist hiding this story. .

And what makes the Summer of Soul documentary so unique is not just its rich, exclusive, and unprecedented documentary collection, which brings together never-before-seen footage and moments. The feature film stands out in its genre for its narrative depth, capable of using all calculated and refined elements in a beautiful historical and social entanglement. From the performances of the presented music festival, the trajectory of the African-American people is masterfully recounted. And with King’s death still latent and fresh in the minds of his people, we see how Summer of Soul also manifested itself as a cry suffered by a community that had lost its last great social leader.

Questlove’s production reveals to us how music was used as a manifestation of the desires of blacks in relation to their socio-political and economic rights, making an impeccable reconstruction, which permeates the most clinical moments leading up to the event. Going deeper, the documentary crosses musical boundaries and traces a powerful timeline that traces African American history from the perspective of fashion, art and Christianity, supplanting and providing an even greater basis for the images. rare exhibited in front of the public.

And bringing together the most diverse interviews, which include ordinary people who lived the festival, artists and other key public figures, the film is a comprehensive and dynamic documentary, which easily turns into an incredible history lesson. With an editing and editing that add even more to its documentary richness, Summer of Soul brings together all spheres of black culture at the same time, offering a unique, visceral and passionate cinematic experience. Made with love by someone who also has music that vibrates at its roots, the production quickly solidifies as a production that will be remembered as one of the best of its kind.

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