Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) capped off its trophy-laden awards-season run by taking home the Oscar for best feature documentary at the 94th Academy Awards, which were held today (March 27) at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
Fending off the challenge from its closest awards-season competitor, Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s animated documentary Flee, Thompson’s much-loved archival doc about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival — which includes recently unearthed footage of performances by such musical legends as Sly and the Family Stone, The 5th Dimension, B.B. King, Gladys Knight & The Pips, and Nina Simone — now adds the Oscar to its long list of previous accolades from the Sundance Film Festival, the BAFTAs, the Producers Guild of America and numerous critics organizations.
“It’s not lost on me that the story of the Harlem Cultural Festival should have been something that my beautiful mother and my dad should have taken me to when I was five years old,” said an emotional Thompson as he accepted the award. “But this is not about me, this is about marginalized people in Harlem that needed to heal from pain.”
At the beginning of his acceptance speech, Thompson also acknowledged the other nominees in the documentary feature category: Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry’s Attica, Jessica Kingdon’s Ascension, Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh’s Writing With Fire, and Rasmussen’s Flee.
Flee, the most-nominated documentary of the night, came away empty-handed, also missing out on the best animated feature prize, which went to Disney’s Encanto, and the best international film award, which was taken by Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s arthouse hit Drive My Car.
The Queen of Basketball wins Best Documentary Short Oscar
In the best documentary short category, the Oscar went to Ben Proudfoot‘s The Queen of Basketball, a portrait of college basketball star and Olympic silver medalist Lusia Harris, the only woman ever drafted by the NBA. Also nominated were Pedro Kos and Jon Shenk‘s Lead Me Home, Matthew Ogens and Geoff McLean’s Audible, Elizabeth and Gulistan Mirzaei’s Three Songs for Benazir, and Jay Rosenblatt’s When We Were Bullies.
Documentary short was one of eight awards categories — along with animated and live-action short, original score, editing, production design, sound, and makeup and hairstyling — whose presentation was pre-recorded before the Oscars telecast and then interpolated into the live show, in an effort by the show’s producers to keep the notoriously long-running awards ceremony to a relatively tight three hours. The decision generated considerable backlash from many in the film industry, who accused the producers of implicitly disrespecting the filmmaking and professions represented by these categories.