Some movies you just have to watch on the big screen. There are some things you just can’t catch on a 12 inch monitor, or even your living room TV. One of those films is “Summer of Soul: When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised”, and it’s currently playing at Cape Cinema.
The film captures the music and movement of the Harlem Cultural Festival held in Harlem’s Mount Morris Park in 1969. The weekly concerts were to celebrate black pride, culture and music. Jesse Jackson and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. were among the speakers, but the strongest calls for racial justice have come from the artists themselves.
The concerts were happening around the same time in the summer of 69 as the hype and coverage of the moon landing, and comedian / actress Moms Mabley had some succinct things to say about what could have been done with that money. .
BB King performed with Sly and the Family Stone. Young people like the 5th dimension and Gladys Knight & the Pips have skyrocketed. Nina Simone has made a burning call for fairness now, walking the stage and daring audiences to stand up for themselves, which could have been captured at a Black Lives Matter rally last summer. But it was filmed over five decades ago and then simply stored away due to the lack of “commercial” interest, which 52 years later makes Cape Cinema its natural home.
Along with rock and soul, another deep and living strain of black culture displayed there was gospel. It was the music and rhythms that kept hope alive during slavery, and after slavery for decades when generations had to focus on the dream rather than the present reality. The Staples Family Singers, including the young girl Mavis, were one of the most prominent groups. Another legend – the great and mighty Mahalia Jackson – was also present. The film captures Mahalia, who aged in 1969, gently telling young Mavis that she isn’t as strong a singer as she used to be and would she like to help her get her song across? Mahalia’s pipes weren’t lethargic, but it was a nice way to give a younger sister a boost. And they were wonderful. So it was touching to see Mavis Staples, who was about Mahalia’s age at the time, singing with the Boston Pops on July 4 – a voice and presence that is still so powerful after 50 long years.
The film is billed as “Black Woodstock”, but that’s kind of an insult. music, but many of them wore Sunday hats. The little children were there in their best dresses and clip-on bow ties, looking around in wonder at the large number of blacks gathered in one place to display and enjoy the music, and It was a festival and a celebration. , a demonstration of unity, dignity and booming dynamic talent.
It was also the festival of a culture at a time and place just after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, when more than 300,000 blacks came together for music and to assert their culture and dignity. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated a year before, but they were here to continue.
We live in an area where nine out of ten people are white. We don’t have many colored neighbors. Being able to see on a big screen what thousands of black people of all ages look like, the size and volume of the crowd, is to begin to understand what Cape Town looks like to these neighbors of color.
The Cape Cinema offers a real opportunity to see and hear this reality, in an immersive way. A beautiful vision is presented in a beautiful setting, so go see the movie while you still can, and be happy that Cape Town has a place where you can do it. Because it is a revolution which should not be simply televised.
Cynthia Stead can be contacted at [email protected]