1 July 2022

Summer of Soul ‘powerful and timely’

Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr of The 5th Dimension are shown today watching the recording of their performance at the festival. On stage then, the group offers a perfect snapshot of the period’s pop music and fashion, wearing matching orange fringed vests and singing their number one hit medley, The Age of Aquarius/ Let the Sunshine In. But there are deeper currents. McCoo recalls that people used to say their voices sounded white, which was not what they wanted. Appearing in Harlem was important, she says with emotion, because “We wanted our people to know what we were about”.

Summer of Soul illuminates the role music and fashion play in our lives; how they reflect change and nudge it along in an endless cycle. Many of the acts on stage wore suits and ties. When Sly and the Family Stone took the stage, with a woman trumpet player and a funk style, it was a jolt that pointed to the future.

But the film and its historical echoes have a role in today’s social dynamic, too. Although the New York City police were at the concert, the Black Panthers added security because the community of Harlem distrusted the police, a distrust still painfully present for millions of people in 2021. Nothing encapsulates this vital film’s power and its timeliness better than that.

★★★★★

Summer of Soul streams on Hulu from 2 July, and is released on 2 July in Brazil and the US, on 16 July in Spain and the UK and on 30 July in France.

Love film and TV? Join BBC Culture Film and TV Club on Facebook, a community for cinephiles all over the world.

If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.

And if you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called The Essential List. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Worklife and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.

Read on bbc.com