Summer of Soul Release Date

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching, why it’s worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: Summer of Soul (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED)

Where You Can Stream It: Hulu

The Pitch: This is your chance to journey back in time, to 1969 and attend the Harlem Cultural Festival. This joyous, electrifying concert doc zeroes in on a forgotten moment in history and enlightens you in the best possible way: through music. Featuring iconic superstar performers like Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder, Summer of Soul marries incredible archival footage with pressing, emotional context — and like a time machine, puts you on that lawn with the thousands of attendees, dancing along in glee.

Why It’s Essential Viewing: It’s been a quiet, lonely year but we’ve entered a period where we seem to be coming out on the other end. The check-in question of choice has gone from “what do you miss the most” to “what are most looking forward to doing again,” but from the early phases of the pandemic to now, my No. 1 answer has been live music.

There’s nothing quite like the beating bass of a stadium concert or the steady lull of small, intimate performance. At this point, the performer in question is of no concern, I just want the joy of live music back. And though bars and music venues are beginning to reopen, the close, sweaty reality of a concert still feels uneasy. So if you share my trepidations, but ultimately long for that singular joy, load up that Hulu tab (or better yet, run to your nearest theater) and join the audience of Summer of Soul.

Directed by The Roots frontman, Amir “Questlove” Thompson, this concert documentary provides a much-needed dose of pure, euphoric Black joy. Featuring an unbelievable lineup of artists, including Nina Simone (!!), Gladys Knight, Mahalia Jackson and B.B. King, the doc uses footage so crisp and intimate, you can see the sweat beading on their faces and feel the electricity in the room.

Summer of Soul isn’t just the closest thing to the communal, kinetic energy of live music, it’s something even greater than that. As much as the movie centers on celebration, revolution, and joy, Summer of Soul is ultimately about preservation. The energy of the festival’s attendees and the stars performing is so tangible that it seeps its way into your bloodstream and leaves you buzzing long after the credits have rolled and faded to black. And after everything — after feeling the spectacle fully and being immersed in the weight of it — you’re slapped with the harsh reality that all of it sat locked in a basement for 50 years, forgotten. It’s a heavy, stark reminder that even the most beautiful moments in time will waste away, forgotten if we let them.

Summer of Soul‘s filmmakers make it so you can’t just attend the concert, you have to understand it. They speak at length with attendees, performers, and organizers of the festival to assure that you are rooted right there with them. It’s 1969: the year people landed on the moon, the year Woodstock occurred just 100 miles away, another year when America was continuously failing its Black residents. So when you see Mahalia Jackson singing the Gospel music that moved the recently murdered Martin Luther King Jr., you need to feel what it means. Summer of Soul makes sure that the stunning power of music resounds through you, loud and clear.

Summer of Soul is in theaters now and streaming on Hulu.

Cool Posts From Around the Web: