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Oscar nominee Questlove says directing ‘Summer of Soul’ helped him heal during the pandemic

The Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is celebrating being nominated for his first Academy Award for his directorial debut, Summer of Soul, which is up for the Best Documentary Film honor.

The film, about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival in New York City, features performances by a stellar lineup, including Stevie Wonder, Sly & The Family StoneGladys Knight and the Pips and many others. Thompson was so anxious hoping for a nomination that he admits he made the mistake of thinking that they were being announced on Sunday, not Tuesday.

“I got up early at 4:00 in the morning, got totally dressed, and I sat on my couch and was wondering, like, ‘What’s taking everyone so long?’” he tells ABC Audio. “I realized it was Sunday.”

Questlove says directing the film helped him find balance during a turbulent time.

“We were locked down, we didn’t have vaccines…then the George Floyd situation and the Breonna Taylor situation and, you know, the uncertainty of the election,” he remembers.”Like, it was so chaotic. And this film was, like, just a healing place to go to.”

The musician/director says it will take a while for him to become accustomed to being called an Academy Award nominee.

“Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson, like, Oscar nominee. Just, words not on my bingo card,” he notes. “So this goes to show you…how life was in 2020.”

Like Thompson, his good friend Will Smith was also nominated for an Oscar, for Best Actor for King Richard. Questlove says although he and Smith were being told they should expect nominations, they were very cautious.

“We were both kind of checking on each other…day by day, like, ‘You ready for tomorrow?’ ‘You ready for tomorrow?’” he comments. “So we’re both happy right now.”

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