Questlove talks about making “Summer of Soul” and “goosebumps” moments

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“Summer of Soul (… Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” is an incredible documentary that chronicles a series of concerts in Harlem in 1969, a celebration of black music and culture that is impressive.

Ahmir-Khalib Thompson, better known as Questlove, directed the film, his first feature film. That meant sorting through 40 hours of recorded performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, and many more. It was a Herculean task for Questlove, but he knew what he was looking for.

“I wanted to gravitate towards goose bumps,” he said.

He got them. You too, several times throughout the film.

Questlove, also a Roots drummer and co-frontman, said he had some help learning to be picky when it came to what he chose.

“Quincy Jones taught me very early on,” said the affable and chatty Questlove. “I interviewed him for my podcast, and when he talks about the process of (making Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’) and how they had to go through 281 songs before deciding, those are our last nine. is like, the common thread was that you got goose bumps. There’s a point in the song that really touches your soul. “

The history of the 1969 Harlem Culture Festival

There are a lot of such moments in “Summer of Soul”. The 1969 Harlem Culture Festival was held over six summer Sundays, five of which were filmed. The images remained in a basement for 50 years. When it came to Questlove, he had a pile to sort through. He took an unusual approach.

“If I tell you that you’re going to have to watch 40 hours of material, just hearing the number ’40’ suddenly sounds like that rock on your back and you’re sitting there reluctantly,” he said.

So he didn’t do that.

Quest for love.

“I haven’t set a time-out like, Friday night I’m going to watch three hours,” he said. “No. What I did was I created a visual aquarium. All of my TVs in the house, I have one device that’s my primary hard drive. It kind of powers all of my devices – my phone, my bathroom, my kitchen, my studio away from home. And it was on a constant 24 hour loop. “

He’s not exaggerating, obviously.

“I even slept there,” he said. “I would just turn on the TV and fall asleep. I would open my eyes if anything happened. I would take a note or take a screenshot. That’s how I treated it.”

Ultimately, he narrowed it down to around 35 times that he really wanted in the movie.

“And once we had 35 good times, that’s where the hard part started.”

How we missed a chance to see Aretha Franklin and Jimi Hendrix

It meant getting rid of some creepy moments, including some little-known gospel acts that he clearly loved. “Letting go was probably the hardest thing in the world that I have had to do,” he said.

There was also the question of what he didn’t have.

For example, when the promoters discovered that the Sixth Sunday would not be filmed, they fought to put as many unknown acts as possible on this bill.

“Summer of Soul” review:How ‘Summer of Soul’ is a moving, beautiful and transcendent film about music and darkness

“I happened to look at the list of strangers,” Questlove said. “And that would have been the first performance of a 17 year old stranger named Luther Vandross. So, yuck. We could have had it.”

A few other almost-hass: Aretha Franklin and Jimi Hendrix. Franklin pulled out at the last minute, giving the Staple Singers – who are excellent in the movie – two performances. The promoters thought Hendrix was too wild for the gig, so he booked afters around town.

What time.

Reservation Sly and the family stone for $ 2,500

Questlove didn’t just sort the images. There was more.

“Believe me, we did a fine tooth comb on this production pilot,” he said. “The production pilot was like the best thing ever, because I got to see who got paid what. Dude, you could ask Sly and Family Stone to play your barbecue in your backyard for $ 2,500. . Like, wow. “

Some mysteries remain. One is the fate of promoter Tony Lawrence.

“I don’t know if he’s alive, I don’t know if he’s dead, I don’t know where he lives,” Questlove said. “He’s got a name like that, we’re looking for Tony Lawrence and there are 23,000 options. So hopefully that will bring him out of the shadows. I’d like to get his take on this movie.”

The other unanswered question is how the film crews got this perfect sound.

“How did they achieve audio quality with just 15 microphones? Said Questlove. (There was also a microphone on the audience.)

It’s really amazing – not only is the sound quality of the music great, but the audience is also perfectly mixed. Questlove was so surprised at what 16 microphones could do that he asked the Roots production manager how many they used to play.

The answer: 103.

“I’m trying to get to where we can see if we can even get there. That’s how I want all the music to sound.”

What it was like to produce a movie during an uncertain time

It is not lost on Questlove that the film comes at a time when at least part of the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and a renewed emphasis on social justice combine.

“We finished in July 2020,” he said. “I don’t know who will be the president in January 2021. I don’t know anything. We believe that next year there may be a place for this film.

“So we prepared it as such. We prepared a movie hoping God maybe the world will open up.… We don’t know. But anyway, we’ll just see what happens. . “

What happened is “Summer of Soul”, a long, creepy moment.

Contact Goodykoontz at [email protected] Facebook: facebook.com/GoodyOnFilm. Twitter: @goodyk. Subscribe to the weekly movies newsletter.

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