Questlove’s ‘Summer of Soul’ is much more than a music documentary

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Hello! It’s Mark Olsen, film writer for The Times and “The Envelope” podcast co-host.

Everyone knows about Woodstock 1969, but did you know that that very same summer, a giant music festival featuring legendary artists like Nina Simone and Stevie Wonder took place in Harlem? It was called the Harlem Cultural Festival, and on today’s episode, I speak with Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson about how he watched 40 hours of footage on a loop to revive its forgotten history in “Summer of Soul.”


We chatted about how the racial justice protests of 2020 brought new life to the film, why centering Black joy was top of mind for Thompson, and the reason he still considers “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” his creative epicenter.

You can listen to the full conversation now wherever you get your podcasts or on, where you can also read the full transcript.

Questlove on 'The Envelope' podcast
(Daniel Dorsa)

“This is not just another history film about old people in their time. Once George Floyd comes to the conversation, I’ll just say that you really truly couldn’t tell what was real on television and what was our film footage. It was interchangeable.”

— — “Summer of Soul” director, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson

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