Flash Movie Review: Summer of Soul
I AM SITTING IN A TINY NIGHTCLUB at a time when people could still smoke inside. The air is hazy, making the stage look like it is behind a translucent veil. Everyone in the place is squeezed around small black tables; I can barely get my hand up to take a sip from my drink. I agreed to go the club to see what magazines were referring to as an “up and coming” comedian. When he got to the stage, the crowd was still somewhat noisy with conversation. It did not last long. He quickly commanded everyone’s attention with his ability to quickly change from one dialect to another in his stories and jokes. At one point he was speaking like a Russian; he then quickly changed to a British accent before talking like an innocent 5-year-old. It was extraordinary to witness the lightning speed he jumped from one character to another, all the time zinging out joke upon joke. The crowd, including myself, was mesmerized with his performance. Sweat had formed on his forehead and was slipping down his face while his shirt darkened with the sweat being generated over his torso. The evening was a major triumph; I thought for sure this guy was going to be a major star. It was not a long wait before my thought became reality. The comedian was soon after performing at major concert halls, starring in movies and even became one of the founders of a televised charity event. I felt so lucky that I was a witness to his historic rise. I AM NOT SURE EVERYONE FEELS this way, but I love being a witness or participant at an event that becomes historic. Having been part of a peaceful march that became a bellwether to changing times makes me feel honored and proud. Something as simple as a museum exhibit’s record-breaking run gives me joy when I can say I was there. There is an iconic singer who has sold out the world’s biggest stadiums, who starred in film and even has been the subject of a Broadway musical; that I can say I saw her when she was a warmup act. I was there at the beginning; I like the way that sounds. The other aspect about this that gives me such pleasure is the randomness of it all. One might not know they are becoming a witness to a monumental event. Think about those who were at the Berlin wall when it toppled or saw Elvis’ last concert or saw The Beatles when they first were starting out in Liverpool; it absolutely excites me to no end. I feel the same way about this documentary; how I wish I could have been there live to see history being made 100 miles away from the Woodstock festival. ON A HOT SUMMER DAY, A PROMOTOR created and put on a festival in a park in Harlem. What was recorded at that time has never been seen before, until now. Directed by musical artist Questlove (The Roots), this movie was a treasure trove of gold star musical performances. I thought for a directorial debut Questlove did an amazing job of mixing the footage with current scenes; especially when the current artists were seeing themselves from 50 years ago. Some of the musical acts shown were Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, The 5thDimension and Nina Simone. I loved everything about this musical picture; the way it weaved in history, politics and the magic of music. The thing that I found most startling was the fact that this festival footage has never been seen before. Nowhere in history have I ever heard about this festival that was created to celebrate African American music. I hope the entire concert footage comes out on DVD or streaming; I would love to see what took place back in that park in 1969. Too bad, I no longer have any bell bottom pants to wear.