If there is an example of a modern renaissance man, it has to be Questlove. The man is more than a triple threat: as the drummer for The Roots he is also the musical director for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, set to appear in the new Pixar animated film Soul, and he’s the accomplished author of his own cookbook, Mixtape Potluck. Now, the ubiquitous musician seeks to extend his creative resume even further as he’s been tapped to direct a forthcoming documentary entitled, Black Woodstock.
The documentary, currently in production, will tell the story of the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969. The six-day concert series took place in Mount Morris Park in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, and featured performances from such legendary acts as Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone, Nina Simone, B.B. King, and more.
The Harlem Cultural Festival took place during the same mythical summer as the Woodstock, and also drew over 300,000 attendees–yet its place in history is far less prominent. In fact, one could say that the Harlem event is overlooked entirely in discussions of the 1960’s counterculture events. Much of that may stem from the issue of a lack of prominent footage of the event. The footage of Jimi Hendrix playing the “Star-Spangled Banner” or Richie Havens opening the festival with “Freedom” are iconic evidence of 20th-century American youth culture.
Luckily, TV cameraman Hal Tulchin was on hand to capture over 40 hours of concert footage over the six-day gathering. After being locked away in storage for nearly 50 years, however, Questlove will use the never-before-seen footage as the basis for his documentary, along with interviews with attendees and participants of the long-forgotten happening.
“I am truly excited to help bring the passion, the story, and the music of the Harlem Cultural Festival to audiences around the world,” Questlove said in a statement to go with Monday’s announcement. “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.”
No release date has been announced yet for Black Woodstock, but the buzz is beginning to build about the production as it is Questlove’s first foray into filmmaking. Producers for the film include Robert Fyvolent, David Dinerstein, and Joseph Patel, with RadicalMedia’s Jon Kamen and Dave Sirulnick serving as EPs alongside Beth Hubbard. Joshua L. Pearson (What Happened, Miss Simone?) is on-board as editor, and Randall Poster (Grand Budapest Hotel) will be the film’s musical director.