Questlove is adding another venture to his portfolio. The Roots artist, best-selling author and multi-hyphen will make his directorial debut and document the Harlem Cultural Festival with his upcoming film, Black Woodstock.
Variety reports that the 1969 festival starred legendary African American artists such as Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, B.B. King, the 5th Dimension, David Ruffin, Mahalia Jackson, the Staple Singers and Gladys Knight & the Pips. Held in Harlem’s Mount Morris Park, the festival was launched a year after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, in an effort to celebrate African American culture and unite the public.
Despite drawing over 300,000 people in attendance, the festival received minimal mainstream media coverage, overshadowed by the Woodstock Festival that had began the same year. In his new documentary, Questlove hopes to tell the stories of the festival and give it the coverage it deserved.
“I am truly excited to help bring the passion, the story and the music of the Harlem Cultural Festival to audiences around the world,” he said in a statement. “The performances are extraordinary. I was stunned when I saw the lost footage for the first time. It’s incredible to look at 50 years of history that’s never been told, and I’m eager and humbled to tell that story.”
Unearthed half a century later, Black Woodstock will include 40 hours of never-before-seen footage, originally shot by the late Hal Tulchin. The title of the film is a nod to what Harlem residents nicknamed the festival.
Black Woodstock will be co-produced by David Dinerstein and Robert Fyvolent alongside RadicalMedia. Jon Kamen and Dave Sirulnick will serve as the film’s executive producers, with Randall Poster acting as music supervisor.
“The music and performances in Black Woodstock will knock audiences out of their seats,” Dinerstein and Fyvolent told Variety. “The footage is unusually rich in texture and feel. We are so proud to be working alongside Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson on his directorial debut. We are confident he will bring an authenticity and unique vision to the film. We are thrilled to partner with some of the best people and organizations working in the documentary space today including Vulcan Productions, Concordia Studio, Play/Action Pictures and RadicalMedia.”