The acquisition of Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s directorial debut is for worldwide rights, parent company Disney says, in a deal put together by Disney General Entertainment’s BIPOC Creator initiative, led by Tara Duncan and brokered by Cinetic Media.
With appearances by Sly and the Family Stone, Nina Simone, Mahalia Jackson, the Staples Sisters, Stevie Wonder, Glady Knight and the Pips, Max Roach, Abby Lincoln and many more, the music-themed documentary is set for a theatrical release as well as streaming on Hulu in America and internationally on Star and Star+.
A true time capsule of then and now, Summer of Soul is packed with newly unearthed footage of the nearly forgotten but star-studded Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969. In that vein, the movie is “an exhilarating and chastising experience,” as I said in my review of January 28 when it premiered at the semi-virtual Sundance Film Festival. The film went on to win the audience award.
“I’m so honored to be allowed to manifest my dreams after all this time,” said Roots drummer and music historian Thompson today after the long-simmering deal was made public. “This is truly an honor. Summer of Soul is a passion project and to have it resonate with so many people on so many levels has been incredibly rewarding. I am very happy to begin this new chapter with the team at Searchlight/Disney/Hulu and look forward to sharing the important story behind the film with audiences worldwide.”
The Disney execs are pretty pumped too in what was high-priced bidding war, from what sources tell me.
“It’s rare to find a film that captures the breadth of the Black American experience and also makes you want to dance, testify and sing out loud,” stated Duncan. “Ahmir has gifted us with a brilliantly crafted, nearly forgotten gem from our history, and we are honored to help bring Summer of Soul to audiences.”
“Ahmir has crafted an incredible and inspiring debut film that is both timeless and relevant,” said Searchlight chairmen Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula of the new look at the politics and music at what was called “Black Woodstock” at the time. “We’re very proud to be involved in bringing this cultural celebration to the widest audience possible both in theaters and at home.”
“Summer of Soul (Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is both a joyous and revelatory documentary helmed by one of the most gifted artists of his generation,” said Rebecca Campbell, chairman, International Operations & Direct-to-Consumer, part of Disney Media Entertainment Distribution. “We’re honored Hulu and our upcoming Star and Star+ offerings will be the exclusive streaming homes around the world to this groundbreaking film.”
Summer of Soul is produced by Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent and David Dinerstein with RadicalMedia. Jen Isaacson, Jon Kamen, Dave Sirulnick, Jody Allen, Ruth Johnston, Rocky Collins, Jannat Gargi, Beth Hubbard, Davis Guggenheim, Laurene Powell Jobs, Jeffrey Lurie, Marie Therese Guirgis, David Barse, Ron Eisenberg, Sheila Johnson and Questlove himself serve as EPs. Jonathan Silberberg and Nicole Stott are co-executive producers. The docu is a Vulcan Productions Production in Association with Concordia Studio, Play/Action Pictures, LarryBilly Productions, and produced by Mass Distraction Media and RadicalMedia.