Questlove's Sundance-Winning 'Summer of Soul' Acquired by Searchlight Pictures, Will Play in Theaters and Stream on Hulu

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, the drummer for The Roots, made his feature directorial debut with Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised), a documentary about a nearly-forgotten music festival held in Harlem in 1969. The movie was selected as one of the opening night films of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and after earning an incredible amount of buzz there, it has now been picked up by Searchlight Pictures.

The company has acquired the worldwide rights to the acclaimed film, which just pulled off the impressive feat of winning both the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for Documentary and the Audience Award for Documentary at Sundance. Summer of Soul will be released theatrically, but it will also be available to stream on Hulu in the United States and internationally on Star and Star+.

If this is your first time hearing about the movie, here is its official synopsis:

In 1969, during the same summer as Woodstock, a different music festival took place 100 miles away. More than 300,000 people attended the summer concert series known as the Harlem Cultural Festival. It was filmed, but after that summer, the footage sat in a basement for 50 years. It has never been seen – until now. “Summer Of Soul” is a stunning unearthed treasure destined to become a pillar of American music and African American history. In his striking debut as a filmmaker, the legendary musician Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson presents this transporting documentary—part concert film, part historical record—about an epic event that radiated the wholesale reevaluation of Black history, culture, fashion, and music. This rich tapestry deftly incorporates interviews with historic personalities like Harlem “Ambassador” Musa Jackson, with an unforgettable musical revue that includes interviews and performances by varied artists like B.B. King, Cal Tjader, The Harlem Calypso Band, Hugh Masekela, Mongo Santamaria, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone among many others, as well as many rare gems, such as a Stevie Wonder drum solo and a duet between Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples. “Summer Of Soul” shines a light on the importance of history to our spiritual well-being and stands as a testament to the healing power of music.

I had a chance to review this movie, and am thrilled that it’s been picked up so quickly. There is no official release date scheduled yet, but I’m just glad that Searchlight Pictures isn’t planning a solo theatrical release and will let people watch Summer of Soul streaming if that’s how they’re comfortable doing so during the pandemic. Admittedly, this would be a great movie to watch with a crowd, but I’m thankful that the choice is being presented to viewers about how they’d prefer to watch this.

Indiewire says the film sold to Searchlight and Hulu for $12 million, breaking the record $10 million that A24 and Apple paid for Boy’s State at last year’s festival.

“I’m so honored to be allowed to manifest my dreams after all this time,” said Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. “This is truly an honor. Summer Of Soul is a passion project and to have it resonate with so many people on so many levels has been incredibly rewarding. I am very happy to begin this new chapter with the team at Searchlight/Disney/Hulu and look forward to sharing the important story behind the film with audiences worldwide.”

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