(… Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). Back in 1969, as Armstrong was strolling around on the Moon and all ears were on Woodstock, producer Hal Tulchin gathered together a mess of talent for the Harlem Cultural Festival, a six-concert celebration of Black history, culture, fashion and music. The event drew a combined audience of over 300,000. Get this lineup: Sly and the Family Stone, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, the 5th Dimension, B.B. King, the Staple Singers, the Edwin Hawkins Singers, and more.
The concerts were filmed, but Tulchin couldn’t find a buyer (“No one wanted to see a Black Woodstock”) and the footage just gathered dust for more than 50 years. Until its rescue by Roots drummer and frontman Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who, in a remarkable feature debut, brilliantly interweaves interviews with the performers today and a few attendees then and now, and throws in a dash of politics to create one of the most intellectually astute concert films you will ever have the pleasure to witness. It’s a time capsule. A gift. A public service. Not to be missed. Makes you wonder what else is buried out there. (118 min)