Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Digital)

Summer Of Soul (...Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is a feature documentary about the legendary 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival which celebrated African American music and culture, and promoted Black pride and unity.

February 11, 2022 5 Min Read

Review by: Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

When sitting down to review a concert film, my mind does perplex me a bit. I have come to realize you’re either on board or not and that usually depends on if you’ve an interest in the subject matter. In this feature, we are given a look at a concert series of six weekly shows that were all free to the public. We see various snippets of the shows intertwined with interviews. The near perfect rotten tomatoes score would indeed indicate a masterpiece, but I won’t go that far. What I will say is the film does a fine job of discussing its subject to the audience who will walk away with a clear understanding of it. It may even be a part of history that many didn’t know about. For me, however, I simply didn’t care for the topic at hand, but I am also not the clear audience for this. I can’t say I listen to soul music or the various artists who appear on this program.

Acting as sort of a reaction to the tough times and violence from 1968, it is nice to see a large group turning to positivity in the shadow of darkness. It is something that can be relevant really in any era. Much care has gone into finding and then assembling this footage to make the film coherent and not just meandering and inconsequential. Some of the artists featured here include Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone and B.B. King, to name a few. While I can’t say I have any of these artists on replay, some of the familiar songs were nice to hear.

This is a film I can appreciate more than I can say I was entertained by. It respects its subject and gives a deeper understanding of the time and history that it originated from. Even if it wasn’t my cup of tea, I feel that those with an appreciation for the era, artists featured or even a brief history lesson will take away a lot from it.

Video: How’s it look?

When viewed from a digital redemption code, the image was more than pleasant to my eyes. It must be said that since uses a lot of archival footage from the various shows, expect some sporadic bits to appear, but I don’t count those against the program since that is the very nature of how things are presented to us. Interview footage looks as good as it needs to be. All told, this transfer suits the film well.

Audio: How’s it sound?

Also strong was the audio that invited us into the world. The Dolby Atmos gives us a rich and lively experience, which is essential when you have a film about music. The channels all remained active and there’s the clarity that I have come to expect.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Audio Commentary – If you’re so inclined, you can hear the director Ahmir Thompson provide his thoughts.
  • Soul Searching – An interesting behind the scenes look on bringing the film to life.
  • Harlem: Then and Now – I always like features like this comparing the past to the present and that’s precisely what you get.

The Bottom Line

This didn’t do as much for me as it did for many, but to the target audience I feel they will have a lot to enjoy here. It’s something I can admire more than I can say I enjoyed, but it’s still a well made program and covers its topic with care.

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