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Parents' Guide to

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

By Monique Jones, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Excellent music doc mixes pop culture, social commentary.

Movie PG-13 2021 117 minutes
Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 10+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 10+

Great film. May not hold the attention of your child for the entire film, however.

This documentary about the Summer of Soul captures the excitement and incredible talent in this event that was eclipsed by Woodstock, and forgotten by many. It has legendary talents and important historical notes. I would recommend this to anyone 10+ who would be interested in the topic, the music, the people, and the context of the time.

This title has:

Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
age 10+

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2 ):
Kids say (1 ):

This film is a must-watch for fans of music documentaries, pop culture, and American history. The 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival was a monumental event for New York City, but the footage filmed there stayed in a basement for more than 50 years simply because studios at the time didn't think enough viewers would be interested in a Black film. The story behind the making of the film only adds to its commentary on race in America -- particularly how some of America's most important stories go overlooked or are suppressed due to racism and discrimination.

It would be possible to view Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) as "just" a documentary on Black music. But Questlove makes sure to provide context for the performances by interviewing people who were there and some of the acts themselves. Their responses provide a historical basis for the themes present in the music we enjoy -- anger at the rich, racist establishment; sadness and despair over the deaths of prominent civil rights leaders; hope for the future; courage to fight back; and joy from living life in all of its ups and downs. The festival footage, combined with images and video from other significant cultural events of the year, paints a more authentic picture of social unrest than Woodstock, which also happened in 1969, aspired to. Indeed, Woodstock -- footage from which did sell to studios because it was a mostly White event -- only gives one side of the story. Yes, it showcased the fact that the current for change was rippling through all parts of society, but it only focused on the White experience, an experience that was already economically and socially privileged over that of the people who were (and continue to be) actually suffering the brunt of America's disinterest. Thankfully, Summer of Soul has finally seen the light of day, belatedly but no less powerfully giving modern viewers the lessons and tools they need to embark on their own fight for civil rights.

Movie Details

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