'Summer of Soul' Wins Oscar for Highlighting NYC's 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival

Director Questlove dedicated the award to "marginalized people in Harlem that needed to heal from pain."

David Livingston/Stringer/Getty Images Entertainment
David Livingston/Stringer/Getty Images Entertainment

Sunday night's Oscar winner for Best Documentary Feature was also a big win for New York City. Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is a 2021 documentary directed by The Roots drummer Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, which unearthed archival footage of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. It was his first Oscar win after earning multiple Grammys throughout his career.

Although it featured performances from musical icons like Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight & the Pips, and Sly and the Family Stone and drew around 300,000 people, the "Black Woodstock" festival has not enjoyed widespread cultural acknowledgment. The documentary explores the reasons behind this as part of its Oscar-winning narrative while delving into New York City's rich Black history and culture.

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"This is not about me, this is about marginalized people in Harlem that needed to heal from pain," Questlove said during an emotional acceptance speech.

Summer of Soul premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year, where it won both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize in the US Documentary field. It grossed $3.7 million during its limited theatrical run and is currently available to stream on Hulu.

It's of note that the award was given immediately following a physical altercation between Will Smith and host Chris Rock.

Check out a complete list of 2022 Oscar winners and the show's most outrageous moments on Thrillist.

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Chris Mench is an editor focusing on NYC News at Thrillist. You can follow him on Twitter for more of his work.