Questlove Wins Best Documentary At Independent Spirit Awards For “Summer Of Soul”

Questlove celebrated “bringing Black joy to the world,” as he collected the win for his film highlighting the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival.

Questlove won Best Documentary at the 2022 Independent Spirit Awards on Sunday night (Mar. 6) for Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). 

Questlove’s directorial debut highlights the little-known 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival also known as Black Woodstock. The film includes found footage featuring performances by Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, B.B King, and many more legendary musicians from the era.  

Giving a heartfelt acceptance speech, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson said, “I’m not gonna cry right now.” He turned to Joseph Patel Bay Area writer and Summer of Soul producer who wrote The Roots’ first-ever cover story for the now-defunct hip-hop magazine Rap Pages in 1996. “Look at us man,” he declared. “We’re living the dream, restoring history, bringing Black joy to the world.” 

Questlove Accepts The Award For Best Documentary

Working on the film through a time of global crisis helped Questlove connect to the artistic process of the performers back in 1969.  

“Being smack dab in the middle of 2020, panicking about the pandemic, the world being shut down, George Floyd happened, Breonna Taylor happened, the city’s on fire, there’s shootings [of the] unarmed, there’s this weekly toll of death, death, death,” he explained to The L.A. Times. “And then when you look at where we were as a country in 1969, with the heavy amount of death we were dealing with, the assassinations, the Kennedy brothers, Malcolm, Martin — I really connected with this tall task of being creative in a time of stress, working on a film about creatives who got together in a time of stress. Nina Simone’s segment felt very 2020. She’s not doing show tunes and jazz anymore. This is a politically charged, angrier, fiery Nina Simone. Once we made that switch, it felt like a whole new movie.”  

Questlove is also in the running for a Grammy, BAFTA, and the Academy Award for Documentary Feature for Summer of Soul.