Black Woodstock: Questlove to Direct Documentary on Untold Story of the Harlem Cultural Festival

Questlove attends Heidi Klum’s 20th Annual Halloween Party presented by Amazon Prime Video and SVEDKA Vodka on October 31, 2019 in New York City.
Questlove attends Heidi Klum’s 20th Annual Halloween Party presented by Amazon Prime Video and SVEDKA Vodka on October 31, 2019 in New York City.
Photo: Noam Galai (Getty Images for Heidi Klum)

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of The Roots (sidenote: for all the times The Root, the publication, gets mistaken for The Roots, the band, it would be dope if one time we, The Root, hosted a meta panel with live sounds from The Roots) will be making his directorial debut in the upcoming feature documentary titled, Black Woodstock, Variety reports. The title references the nickname given to the Harlem Cultural Festival, an outdoor festival located in Harlem’s Mount Morris Park, which debuted in 1969, the same summer as the famous Woodstock festival and one year after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


“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, obtained via press release. “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.”

The documentary will place a spotlight on a significant moment in black music history, as over 300,000 people attended the festival, yet it received little to no coverage in mainstream media. As such, Questlove, along with producers David Dinerstein and Robert Fyvolent have obtained over 40 hours of never-before-seen footage shot by late television pioneer Hal Tulchin, which has been kept in storage for the past 50 years, to incorporate into the documentary.

Curated by master of ceremonies, Tony Lawrence, the Harlem Cultural Festival featured heavyweights such as Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, David Ruffin, The Staple Singers, Mahalia Jackson, Sly and the Family Stone and the 5th Dimension. Whew! To be in the audience with that level of greatness performing live?! Priceless.

“The music and performances in Black Woodstock will knock audiences out of their seats,” Dinerstein and Fyvolent said in a statement. “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.”

Of course, since the film is still in its very early stages, we don’t have a distribution platform nor a release date to announce at the moment. However, I predict Questlove will be able to get prime billing on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to promote the project when that time comes. Perks!

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.