Summer of Soul (… Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) won the Oscars for best documentary feature in 2022.
While winning the prize at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on Sunday night, director and executive producer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson was at a loss for words. “It’s not lost on me that the Harlem Cultural Festival is something that my beautiful mother and father should have taken me to when I was five years old, and…” he paused and sobbed. “Right now, this is really a great time for me. However, this isn’t about me. This is about Harlem’s underprivileged individuals who needed to recover from their trauma.”
Thompson’s first Oscar came on the heels of his first nomination. Summer of Soul is a documentary film produced by Onyx Collective, Concorida Studio, Play/Action Pictures, LarryBilly Productions, Mass Distraction Media, RadicalMedia, and Vulcan Productions about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, a powerhouse and free music festival that received little media coverage at the time but featured performances by Gladys Knight, Nina Simone, and Stevie Wonder, among others.
“Simply know that in 2022, this is not just a 1969 tale about underprivileged people in Harlem,” he continued. This is a story about… I’m sorry, but I’m simply overwhelmed right now.” The audience exploded in cheers as he hesitated. “I’m going to gather myself together, and I’ll thank everyone properly when I go offstage,” Thompson continued. I’m so overjoyed right now that I could cry. Thank you very much.”
Thompson also congratulated his other candidates in the category, which included Ascension, Attica, Flee, and Writing With Fire.
Thompson refused to acknowledge a dramatic televised scene that shortly preceding his acceptance speech, in which Will Smith stormed onstage and smacked Chris Rock after the latter made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Thompson did said of Summer of Soul, “although most will regard it as a Black historical film, we also need to start reframing that Black history is American history.” And to show folks that, you know, we helped develop this facility.”
The 2022 Oscars, co-hosted by Amy Schumer, Regina Hall, and Wanda Sykes, were produced by Will Packer and Shayla Cowan and aired live on ABC on Sunday night.