Questlove won the Best Documentary Oscar on Sunday night (Mar. 27) for Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised).
Questlove was temporarily speechless while accepting the award at the ceremony in Hollywood. “It’s not lost on me that the Harlem Cultural Festival is something that my beautiful mother and my dad should have taken me to when I was 5 years old, and …” he said, pausing as his eyes welled up. “This is such a stunning moment for me right now. But this is not about me. This is about marginalized people in Harlem that needed to heal from pain.”
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson won the award with his first-ever nomination for his directorial debut. In Summer of Soul, he highlights the little-known 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, also known as Black Woodstock, using found footage, featuring performances by Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, B.B King, and many more legendary musicians from the era.
Questlove continued, “Just know that in 2022, this is not just a 1969 story about marginalized people in Harlem. This is a story of, of … I’m sorry, I’m just overwhelmed right now.” The crowd erupted in applause before he could continue. “I’m going to get myself together and I’ll thank everyone proper when I get offstage.” He concluded, “I’m so happy right now, I could cry. Thank you.”
Questlove Says “Black History Is American History”
Chris Rock presented Questlove with the award after getting smacked in the face live on air by Will Smith. “I’m not talking about that,” the musician said backstage in the press room following his win. “This is about the Harlem cultural festival.” he added, “Even though most will see this as a Black history film, we also need to start reframing that Black history is American history. And to let people know that you know, we had a hand in building this place.” Watch the touching speech below.
Summer of Soul has earned Questlove numerous awards since its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the documentary categories. He won the Best Documentary at the BAFTA Awards in London last month. He is also in the running for Best Music Film at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards in April.