Another Sundance Film Festival 2021 entry has been sold to distributor mega-giants Searchlight (whose parent company is Disney) and Hulu. The deal was brokered by Cinetic Media. U.S. Documentary Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), directed by Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, is reported to have been acquired for record-breaking figures. The Hollywood Reporter claims it to be the most expensive film obtained in that category at Sundance and, “to compare, last year Apple acquired “Boys State” for $12 million dollars and “Knock Down The House” for $10 million” (THR), suggesting a much steeper price for Summer of Soul.
The deal made on Summer of Soul is said to be put together by Disney General Entertainment’s BIPOC Creator initiative, which is spearheaded by Tara Duncan. The docu, that marks Thompson’s directorial debut, will first experience a theatrical release, then stream on Hulu in the U.S. and Star+ internationally. In response to the deal, Thompson said “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.” Along with breaking the record for most expensively acquired documentary, Summer of Soul won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for documentary at the festival.
Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) documents the Harlem Culture Festival of 1969, the same year as Woodstock, attended by more than 300,000 people. The magic of the film truly stems from the discovered footage of the festival, which laid dormant in a basement for 50 years. The docu is a combination of concert footage and background information on the event and black culture. With featured performances by legends Sly and the Family Stones, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, the Staples Sisters and more, the docu makes for an electrifying journey, and rings true to Tara Duncan’s statement that “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.”
Summer of Soul is a collaborative effort from Vulcan Productions in Association with Concordia Studio, Play/Action Pictures, and LarryBilly Productions. It is produced by RadicalMedia, Mass Distraction Media, Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent and David Dinerstein, as well as executively produced by “Questlove” Thompson, 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, and Sheila Johnson.