An outdoor screening of Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s debut film “Summer of Soul” on Thursday, July 1, on The Terrace Stage at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.
Over six weeks in the summer of 1969, 100 miles south of Bethel, N.Y., where Woodstock was held, The Harlem Cultural Festival was filmed in Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park). The footage was never seen and largely forgotten until now.
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.
“Summer of Soul” shines a light on the importance of history to 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 never-before-seen 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.
Questlove recently said in an interview with Rolling Stone that it was an angering experience to realize that, had it been given proper attention and resources at the time, a film on the Harlem Cultural Festival could have had the same wide influence as 1970s Woodstock.
“This was supposed to come out 50 years ago, and I was supposed to see this movie as a four-year-old,” he said. “When Woodstock came out, the movie made household names out of every artist who appeared in the film. The legend of that concert wound up subsequently defining a generation. And so, as a result, when you think of the late Sixties, you think of hippies, mud, free love, Hendrix, all of those things. This could’ve been such an adrenaline boost to Black music culture, and it wasn’t allowed.”
The winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival, the film will be released theatrically by Searchlight Pictures and will stream on Hulu on July 2, the day following the screening at Bethel Woods.
The screening is presented by Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, a nonprofit cultural organization located in Bethel, in partnership with Delaware Valley Arts Alliance, which presents the Big Eddy Film Festival every September.
“There is no better way to kick off the 10th anniversary of our festival than with this powerful film full of incredible music and unseen moments in history, brought to the big screen through the fresh storytelling style of Questlove,” said Tina Spangler, Director, Big Eddy Film Festival. “It is a film I know our audiences will love, and I’m delighted to be able to show it in person, under the stars, right here in Sullivan County.”
To honor the sense of community that grew out of The Harlem Cultural Festival, the screening is free and open to all ages. Tickets must be reserved to attend, however. For more information, visit BethelWoodsCenter.org.
For more information about the Big Eddy Film Festival, visit BigEddyFilmFest.com. To learn more about the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance, visit DelawareValleyArtsAlliance.org.
“When Woodstock came out, the movie made household names out of every artist who appeared in the film. The legend of that concert wound up subsequently defining a generation. And so, as a result, when you think of the late Sixties, you think of hippies, mud, free love, Hendrix, all of those things. This could’ve been such an adrenaline boost to Black music culture, and it wasn’t allowed.” Questlove