The best documentary feature Oscar in 2022 went to Summer of Soul (Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised).
An emotional Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who directed and executive produced the film, was at a loss for words while winning the prize on Sunday night at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. He paused and choked up as he continued, “It’s not lost on me that my beautiful mother and my dad should have taken me to the Harlem Cultural Festival when I was 5 years old, and…” “Right now, I’m experiencing something quite remarkable. And yet, this has nothing to do with me. Harlem’s underdogs who needed emotional rehabilitation are the focus here.
Thompson’s first Oscar win also occurred on his first Academy Award nomination. The 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival was documented in the documentary Summer of Soul by Onyx Collective, Concordia Studio, Play/Action Pictures, LarryBilly Productions, Mass Distraction Media, RadicalMedia, and Vulcan Productions. The festival featured performances by Gladys Knight, Nina Simone, and Stevie Wonder, among many others, but received little media coverage at the time.
He continued, “Please understand that in 2022, this is not simply a retelling of a story from 1969 about underprivileged people in Harlem. This is a narrative about, of … I’m sorry, I’m feeling very overloaded at the moment. As he paused, the crowd erupted in applause. Thompson said, “I’m going to gather myself together, and I’ll thank everyone proper when I go offstage. … I’m so happy right now, I could cry. Much obliged. Thompson also acknowledged his fellow nominees in the category: of Ascension, Attica, Flee and Writing With Fire.
Backstage in the press conference following his triumph, Thompson declined to mention a dramatic televised scene that directly followed his acceptance speech, when Will Smith stepped onstage and slapped Chris Rock after the latter made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Thompson did add regarding Summer of Soul that “even though most would see this as a Black history picture, we also need to start reframing that Black history is American history. And to let people know that, you know, we had a hand in establishing this place.”
Co-hosted by Amy Schumer, Regina Hall, and Wanda Sykes, the 2022 Oscars were produced by Will Packer and Shayla Cowan and aired live Sunday night on ABC.
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