The awards were held on Sunday night (November 14) in Brooklyn, N.Y., and hosted by comedian Roy Wood Jr., marking the first time it was held with a live audience since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Summer of Soul, which made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, explores the Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969. The highly acclaimed film features footage that was forgotten and unseen for over 50 years from the entire festival which includes performances from Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, and Sly and The Family Stone among many other performers.
The film’s nomination count was tied with another entry from another first-time documentary filmmaker, Jessica Kingdon’s Ascencion. That film, however, scored no awards.
“I’ve been in this industry for 30-plus years and I always thought celebrating something was a weakness. When my first album came out or when my first book came out or my first day of teaching class, I sort of just pushed it to the side like it was nothing. I’ve learned that it’s safe to celebrate achievement so how ironic that this new journey in my life starts now,” Questlove said in his acceptance speech to the audience.
Besides winning best documentary feature, Summer of Soul would also win awards for best first documentary feature, best archival documentary, best music documentary and in a twist, best editing which The Roots drummer and producer was presenting himself.
Questlove would also wind up in a three-way tie for the best director award with Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, who directed The Rescue.
Summer of Soul is currently available to stream on Hulu.