Sundance: Searchlight, Hulu Nab Questlove Directed Doc Summer of Soul – Hollywood Reporter

The doc features 40 hours of never before seen archival footage of 1969’s Harlem Cultural Festival, which has come to be known as the Black Woodstock.

Disney owned Searchlight Pictures and Hulu have acquired music doc, Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised), a directorial debut for The Roots founder Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson.

The deal was negotiated by Cinetic for worldwide rights. The film is set for theatrical release, as well as streaming on Hulu in the U.S. and internationally on Star and Star+.

Sources close to the deal say that the sale marks the biggest for a doc in the history of the Sundance festival, beating out last year’s record-break Boys State, which went to Apple for $12 million. (Prior to Boys State, the largest documentary sale at Sundance was 2019’s Knock Down the House, which sold for $10 million.)

Summer of Soul, which premiered in the U.S. doc competition section of the fest, focuses on 1969’s Harlem Cultural Festival (aka Black Woodstock) that saw performances from Nina Simone and Stevie Wonder, among others, and feature 40 hours of archival footage.

“I’m so honored to be allowed to manifest my dreams after all this time,” said Questlove. “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.”

The acquisition was made via Disney General Entertainment’s BIPOC Creator initiative, led by Tara Duncan, who offered: “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.”

David Dinerstein, Robert Fyvolent and Joseph Patel produced the doc with RadicalMedia serving as creative and production partners. Davis Guggenheim’s Concordia Studio, which was also involved in Boys State, executive produced.

Said producers Dinerstein and Fyvolent, “It’s been overwhelming to watch audiences rediscover this lost piece of history and fall in love with our film. As people are struggling to restore their lives in the midst of a pandemic, we feel this film will bring joy, together with a needed reexamination of important social issues.”

The doc won big at Tuesday night’s festival awards ceremony, taking both the audience award and the grand jury prize in the U.S. doc competition section.

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