SPEECH BY: Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent and David Dinerstein
FILM: "SUMMER OF SOUL (...OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED)"
Q. Everybody, congratulations. Such a well-deserved win. You got
emotional in your speech, Quest, when you were talking about
your family, but also, inside the room was a little
controversial, little bit of a set up there. So what was the
mood going into your acceptance speech today?
A. (Questlove) I am not talking about that. Like, this is about
the Harlem Cultural Festival. We are very happy right now to
accept this award on behalf of Hal Tolson and Tony Lawrence.
This is the story of two gentlemen with a dream who wanted to
heal a nation that was hurting with a concert festival.
And we are very fortunate enough to be the bridge to carry this
denied moment for the last 50 years to the end zone. And I
couldn't be happier right now for two gentlemen with a dream
and to see their dream come true.
Q. Hello. Over here. Congratulations to you --
A. (Questlove) Thank you.
Q. -- All of you. One thing about you, your love of music, it is
abundant, and this documentary certainly showed that. How do
you know -- and you can all answer, but how do you know when
you need to stay on something as opposed to give up the ghost,
when it's not going -- when it is not working?
A. (Questlove) You know, this film has seen, a lot of, I guess,
iterations. Like, you know, first it started out as straight
performance, but then something happened in the pandemic. One,
you know, we had a lot of time on our hands in silence.
And, you know, often, when parents or people come up to me in
airports, like, "Can you give my kid some advice?" like, what
advice do you want to give?
And I used to always say, "Embrace boredom and silence."
So, I mean, the fact that I personally spent a greater part of
2020 in a farm where there was nothing but ducks and chickens
to talk to me, I think that just put me in a different mind
state. And one of the mind states that I was in was just --
it's not enough just to give you guys the music without the
context of the music.
And so a lot of the -- the -- what we call the super editing to
the great -- from our great editor, Josh Pearson, was that we
wanted to explain to people what was happening. And, not to
mention, around April of 2020, things that were happening in
1968, 1969 were starting to mirror 2020.
And so the irony wasn't lost on us that we have a brand new
film on our hands, and we went with it.
Q. Hi, guys. Over here. Quest, Philadelphia is proud of you. I
want to say, a year ago, January 2021 when this film sold out
of Sundance, you guys were the benefit -- or the beneficiary of
a really sort of an interesting platform release between
Searchlight and Hulu.
You've got your prestige theatrical rollout and,
obviously, access to tens of thousands of subscribers, which I
think gave SUMMER OF SOUL a lot of wind under its sails. In any
other year, in a non-pandemic year, how do you think this movie
would have rolled out, and do you have a preference of how
these stories reach anybody?
A. (Questlove) You know, I haven't even thought of a revisionist
version or an alternative timeline. I do know that time was the
common -- the common factor of this entire journey, from the
50-year lead-up to this finally getting the green light, to the
fact that we started a lot of our work March 16th, 2020.
And, you know, there were moments when I felt like, well, maybe
we'll come back in the 55th anniversary or in the 60th
anniversary, or this is ruined or whatever.
But, for me, I have never once thought about, you know, if
this were an alternative timeline, like, would this moment have
happened? I think this was supposed to happen and -- yeah. And
I do think about the detriment of the lessons we had to learn
in the last two years.
But I, for one, spent my pandemic learning and growing as a
human, as we all did, as creatives and as human beings.
A. (David Dinerstein) I just want to touch on that, too. I think
we were supported by a great company, or companies, in respect
to Searchlight and Onyx and Hulu that really thought on
their feet. We were in the middle of a pandemic. Our Sundance
film festival premiere was canceled.
It ended up as a virtual premiere, and when it was ultimately
acquired by those companies, they really thought outside of the
box, and they said this is really important to put into the
theaters, assuming we do have the ability to do it.
And they did, and it was in 700-plus screens. Two weeks later,
it was on Hulu, and, you know, a few weeks ago, it aired on
ABC. So it is really an amazing group of teams behind us who
have been there since day one, and we couldn't have had better
A. (Robert Fyvolent) And I will just add, we actually intended
this film to be viewed communally. Right? It's an experiential
film. It was intentional to put the audience in the festival.
And I think that whether that communal experience comes in the
theater or at home or 15 kids surrounding a phone or Amir
checking rough cuts on his iPhone, it just -- you know, I think
that was the intention, and I think you see and feel that in
Q. Stephanie Holland from The Root.
Q. I was wondering if you could speak to how important a film like
this that celebrates black history and culture is right now,
while our culture is under attack.
A. (Questlove) You know, we've always maintained that even though
most will see this as, you know, a black history film, 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
building this place and -- thank you.
And, you know, the thing -- the thing that I really want people
to leave with -- because, you know, there's people that are
going to be curious about this film and see it, and there's
some teachable moments.
The one teachable moment that I personally, I guess, would like
to stress is that, you know, we're in a place right now where
there's a lot of people that have power to greenlight projects,
and, oftentimes, you know, as Americans, we're always in fight
or flight mode.
And nine times out of ten, when something gets greenlit, it
is because it is monetarily, you know, to their advantage to do
so, and they often pass on things that are outside the box, or,
you know, that's not deemed a moneymaker.
And I hope that this moment shows that stories like these do
matter and that, you know, instead of us living in our comfort
zone -- like, right now, we are in a time where people are
always rebooting things and rebooting ideas and whatnot, that
new ideas can come to fruition and new stories.
And, you know, as I said at the podium, like, we're still
living in those exact times in '69, where marginalized
people -- I mean, be it the LGBTQIA community being asked to
deny their existence, or the fact that, you know, critical race
theory is now deemed a controversy in our schools, be it
marginalized people, refugees from all over the world looking
for a home and their dignity, people on the poverty line.
So yeah. Hopefully, this will be the paradigm shift and the
turning point so that these stories can be elevated.
Q. Good evening.
A. (Questlove) It is like the voice of God. How are you doing?
The lights are so --
Q. Congratulations to all of you, gentlemen. My question is for
Quest. SUMMER OF SOUL is such a magnificent documentary. Harlem
has been my home for nearly 15 years. I would like to know how
you came to cast Musa Jackson, who added such a beautiful
texture to this amazing documentary.
A. (Questlove) I always maintain -- Musa Jackson's the first
person whose face you see in the beginning, and I remember when
he walked in the studio, I was like, there's no way that this
guy remembers anything. Like, he was in his mother's womb,
trying to give us context.
And I was borderline dismissive because, you know, it's like,
he was 4 years old. What is he going to remember? What is he
going to add to this film.
And the thing is, is that, along with Marilyn McCoo and some
others, like, Musa is the heart of film. And the fact that
that festival was his very first memory in life and that that
stayed with him -- woah. Something controversial just
happened. What happened?
Oh, I'm sorry. I heard mumbling like another situation just
happened. No. It's just -- I was running for cover.
No. Moussea is -- it is so weird. That moment was so genuine.
That -- that moment was actually captured off camera, you know,
where we were just casually talking to each other, and thank
God we were rolling.
But it goes to show you that even I -- you know, and this is
our project. Like, I was ready to just, throw the baby out
with the bath water. Like, okay, he is four years old, so he
has nothing to say. And see how easily dismissive that could
have been? And he is the heart of the film.
So I'm very happy for Musa and for the entire community of
Harlem to finally -- you know, the fact that they're seen now
and they are in the canon. That is so important. Thank you.
Q. Hi, how are you?
A. Hi, how are you?
Q. I am doing well. Congratulations on your big win. I noticed
you mentioned there was a lot of parallels between the time
when the SUMMER OF SOUL occurred and 2020, current day today.
If you were to have a similar lineup, something lying that now
that would kind of speak to the experiences that we are going
through now, and, you know, just have artists that could, like,
provide some healing the way they were trying to do at that
time, what do you think would be a good lineup, and where would
a concert like this take place?
A. (Questlove) So you are setting me up for a great alley oop dunk
right now. I could just say you can go right to The Roots
picnic and see the two-day lineup.
So when The Roots were living in London, there were a lot of
lessons that we -- we moved to London because that was a city
that really embraced musicianship at a time in 1993 in which
that wasn't happening in the states.
And, you know, we -- in 1993, all we knew was, like,
Lollapalooza and maybe Farm Aid. And when we went there and
did all of these festivals, we were like, we have to take the
festival back to the states. We got to learn -- everything
that we learned here in these four years of London, we got to
bring back home.
This is, I believe, our 13th or 14th year of doing The Roots
picnic, so -- you know, and that's another thing. Oftentimes, I
think artists feel like there has to be some heavy political
agenda to be a role model or to be politically involved. But,
you know, half the time, it's just being there for people, you
And that, to me, is what festivals are about. Like, festivals
Q. Thank you so much.
Q. West Philly, stand up all day, congratulations. And our city is
going through a lot of things. What do you want to say to the
young kids, especially in West Philly, that are dreaming, that
are wanting to do something bigger than what they're seeing,
what they are being told that they can do?
A. (Questlove) I think the lesson I learned in the last two years,
and especially when you are young and black, is that
oftentimes, you know, my -- my elders -- and I mean elders,
like teachers and occasional uncles and people on the block --
they never taught us how to dream. They never taught us how to
Oh, my God. What am I missing right now? Of course he did. West
Philly in the house!
Anyway, we weren't taught to dream that much. We were taught to
survive and hustle and survive. And, you know, I encourage any
young person nowadays that the key to -- the key to life and
thriving is dreaming. I -- trust me. I encourage it heavily.
Dreaming is everything.
And -- yeah. I used to think that dreams were silly. I would
watch Michael Jackson on Soul Train talk about, "Yeah. I like
day dreaming" and all these things. I used to laugh at those
answers, but no. For real, it's so important right now, and I
can't stress it enough. Thank you.
A. (Robert Fyvolent) I am in a room full of journalists, so I have
to say this because I would be remiss not to. Riz Ahmed,
tonight, became the 9th South Asian ever to win an Academy
Award. I became the 10th. Tonight, two South Asians won an
Also, this will please my mother: I am the first Patel ever to
win an Oscar. So I'm very proud of that. But I think it is
remarkable that two South Asians won an Oscar tonight, and I
think that's a small, small, small, small sign of progress.
Q. Thank you so much and congratulations.