Questlove Earns Sundance Institute Vanguard Award For ‘Summer Of Soul’ –

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson has been named a recipient of the 2021 Sundance Institute Vanguard Award for his documentary film Summer Of Soul. 

“I’m extremely honored to receive this award. Storytelling has always been the fiber of my creativity, be it DJing, writing articles/books, podcasting, or teaching,” Questlove shared in a statement. “Of course, I share this honor with the entire team behind Summer Of Soul. It was an honor to bring this historic event to light for audiences to experience.”

Summer Of Soul premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Documentary section, where it won the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary presented by Acura and the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary.

Summer of Soul Key Art

In his acclaimed debut as a filmmaker, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson presents a powerful and transporting documentary—part music film, part historical record created around an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture, and fashion.
Searchlight Pictures

During a July interview with VIBE Questlove shared how the film came to be explaining that he explored and analyzed 45 hours of concert footage for the documentary.

“It’s almost like you gotta Jedi Mind Trick yourself. If you’re telling me, ‘Hey Ahmir, here’s 45 hours of content,’ I don’t care if it’s the best Prince show I’ve seen in my life, all I see is the number 45 and the big boulder that I now have to carry on my back like the Slave album cover, their very first album cover,” he shared.

“I saw myself holding this giant number. ‘How am I even going to [do this]? Is that two hours a day, in a week, fourteen hours? I’m never going to get through this film. You’re gonna fail, you’re gonna fail.’ The hardest thing to do was NOT watching Soul Train and not watching the normal things I always do in the house. Soul Train is on [a] constant loop. So the thing I [had] to discipline myself to do, was to put this on my hard drive device, and have this play [continuously]…the way that Prince talked about Finding Nemo, that was this film with me. I had it on in my bedroom, my bathroom, my kitchen, my studio, my phone, so there was no place in the world where I couldn’t watch this film and that’s all I did. For six months that’s all I did was keep it on. If something interesting happened and I caught it, I took a note. When I had thirty of those things, it was, now I have a foundation.”

Summer Of Soul Festival

Summer Of Soul Festival.
Searchlight Pictures

The Sundance Institute Vanguard Award was established in 2012 to honor those whose work and vision represent the highest level of breakthrough innovation, originality, and independent spirit. Past honorees include Ryan Coogler, Damien Chazelle, Marielle Heller, Nate Parker, Dee Rees, Boots Riley, and Lulu Wang.

Filmmaker Siân Heder will also be recognized with the 2021 honor for her work on her feature film CODA.

“I’m so grateful to Sundance for the incredible support that they have given to me on my journey as a filmmaker. I am thrilled and honored to join the company of the artists who have previously received this award, as well as my co-honoree, Ahmir, and his brilliant film,” said Heder.

Watch a trailer for Questlove’s directorial debut Summer Of Soul below:


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