Next week comes to HBO ‘Woodstock 99: Peace, love and fury’, the first documentary about the second attempt (ended in fiasco) to update and emulate the great hippie date of 1969.
A handful of films have already emerged, including the iconic documentary ‘Woodstock’ or the fictional ‘Destination: Woodstock’, a comedy about the origins of the festival signed by Ang Lee.
And the so-called ‘Black Woodstock’, that is, the Harlem Cultural Festival, also held in the summer of 1969? How many movies have been produced? Just one (and it opens in theaters this Friday, half a century after the event on Friday, the 30th, on Disney +): ‘Summer of soul’ , a great concert film split into cultural, social and musical history.
It is the directorial debut of Amir Thompson, alias Questlove , drummer and co-leader of the hip hop group The Roots (the one who has accompanied Jimmy Fallon on his ‘late-night’ since 2009), as well as a renowned DJ, writer, music journalist or college professor.
Recognized with the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the Sundance non-fiction section , ‘Summer of soul’ is an invitation to (re) discover the event organized by promoter Tony Lawrence to celebrate the sounds and cultures of Harlem.
One of the earliest (essentially) black music festivals, captured for posterity by videographer Hal Tulchin on heavy two-inch reels. Some of the footage was seen on local television, but most of it was forgotten and systematically ignored for decades, despite Tulchin’s attempts to show it to the world in the best conditions.
Over six consecutive weekends, more than 300,000 people gathered at Mount Morris (now Marcus Garvey) Park to enjoy “a perfect balance of soul music, free jazz, salsa and more,” in Questlove’s definition.
virtual press conference. Some of those people climbed a tree to get a better view. David Ruffin , fresh off the Temptations, winks at the climber when he gets to the word ‘tree’ on the hit ‘My girl’.
In addition to Ruffin, Stevie Wonder , The 5th Dimension , Sly & The Family Stone , Nina Simone , Gladys Knight & The Pips orBB King , the artist Thompson tells us most would have enjoyed playing drums with in 1969.
In total there were preserved, almost all in perfect condition, about forty hours of footage, of which Questlove initially extracted between 10 and 15%. His experience as a ‘dj’ helped him organize the material and tell a story with it. ” To begin with, for five months I didn’t see anything else 24 hours, no matter where I was, whether at home or away.
If something gave me goose bumps, I would take a note . Goosebumps, it would have a foundation. ”The first version was three hours and thirty-five minutes, the last, just under two hours. Questlove learned, he says,“ the power of montage, ”or, in other words, that “less is more, less really impacts”.