• Gareth Crook

Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (2021) - 9/10

What can I say about Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)? Well, it’s cool. Very cool. 1969, The Harlem Cultural Festival. Everyone knows about Woodstock the same year, but even though this was also filmed and 300,000 attended… well I’d never heard of it. Have you? That’s the point. I tell you we’ve been missing out. The footage is beautiful. The people are beautiful and Stevie Wonder sounds beautiful. While the white folks were getting high, the black folks were getting down. Turn on, tune in, drop out? Fuck that. This was a festival with a mission. Political leaders gunned down, Vietnam, people were angry. The festival was an ointment. A celebration and boy it looks like it succeeded. You can’t go wrong with BB King, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight, Sly & The Family Stone… it’s a party! The bands are tight, the dance moves even tighter and there’s a lot of acts I’ve never heard of too, meaning there’s lots to discover. It’s not just that the footage is so good through, both on stage and off it. It’s the sound. My god it’s fucking amazing! Whoever was on the desk, is a bloody wizard. Of course maybe it helps when the music is so cool, but still it’s the heartbeat of this documentary. Everybody looks amazing too. I’m sure people won’t look back on Glastonbury footage from the 90s and think ‘those bucket hats look great’, but here the attire here is on point. Bright, flared, bold. The brainchild of Tony Lawrence, a beacon of positive energy. He helped mastermind not only a multi weekend event that worked for those present, but also got it filmed. Properly. Brilliantly. With no money! The stories remembered by those who were there are packed with positivity and power. You can see it in the faces on screen just how much it means. It’s utterly joyous. Soul, Gospel, Blues, it booms off the screen. It’s a cultural, political and musical education. Breathtaking!


9/10