The Man Who Helped Questlove Make 2021's Best Documentary

Joseph Patel produced stories for and on some of the best in music. Now he’s on the verge of landing his first Oscar.

Bonsu Thompson
LEVEL
Published in
7 min readDec 27, 2021

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Photo courtesy of Joseph Patel

In 1996, the now-defunct hip-hop magazine Rap Pages published The Roots’ very first cover story, written by Bay Area scribe Joseph Patel. Twenty-five years later, Patel is an accomplished visual storyteller living on the intersection of culture and music. His résumé boasts media brands like VICE and Vevo. This year, he added another accolade: relinking with The Roots’ afroed music leader Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson to help birth the drummer’s directorial debut.

Released in June, Summer of Soul is a documentary about the famed Black Woodstock, an epic Harlem concert that took place back in 1969, featuring the likes of Nina Simone, Hugh Masekela, and David Ruffin, to name just a few. In dazzling technicolor, the film splashes browns onto the interdependent void of Black and American music history. It unearths an undeniable treasure of forgotten history and has since won Sundance along with several other prestigious acknowledgments. It’s now positioned for an Oscar nomination. That makes the film’s top producer, Patel, one 2021’s champions of motion picture.

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Bonsu Thompson
LEVEL
Writer for

Bonsu Thompson is a writer, producer, Brooklynite and 2019 Sundance Screenwriters Lab fellow.