Indian American Joseph Patel is Part of Oscar-Winning Documentary Feature ‘Summer of Soul’
- He is co-producer of the documentary on the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson.
Indian American Joseph Patel along with co-producers David Dinerstein and Robert Fyvolent and director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson have won Best Documentary Feature Oscar for “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised).” The documentary examines the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which was held at Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park) in Harlem and lasted for six weeks. Despite having a large attendance and performers such as Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, among others, the festival was seen as obscure in pop culture, something that the documentarians investigate.
The “Summer of Soul” team received the award by Chris Rock, who had just been slapped by Will Smith following a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith. “This is such a stunning moment for me right now, but it’s not about me,” Questlove said. “It’s about marginalized people in Harlem that needed to heal from pain. Just know that in 2022, this is not just a 1969 story about marginalized people in Harlem.”
“I’m in a room full of journalists so I have to say this because I would be remiss not to,” Patel said in a backstage interview, according to news reports in the Indian media. “Riz Ahmed earlier tonight became the ninth South Asian to ever win an Academy Award. I became the 10th,” he added. “Tonight, two South Asians won an Academy Award. Also this will please my mother I’m the first Patel ever to win an Oscar. So, I am very proud of that.”
The documentary edged past “Writing With Fire,” chronicling India’s only Dalit women-run newspaper; and Riz Ahmed co-produced “Flee,” which tells the real-life story of Amin, a gay Afghan refugee, through vividly animated renderings of both his past and future with a new husband; as well as “Ascension,” by Jessica Kingdon, Kira Simon-Kennedy and Nathan Truesdell; and “Attica” by Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry.
Directed by debutantes Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, ”Writing With Fire” tells the story of the rise of Khabar Lahariya, and follows an ambitious group of wonder women – led by their chief reporter, Meera – as the team switches from print to digital to stay relevant.
“Summer Of Soul” had its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the documentary categories. It received a limited theatrical release in the United States on June 25, 2021, before being released theatrically by Searchlight Pictures and via streaming on Hulu.
A producer, director, writer, and executive with over two decades of experience in TV, film, digital and print journalism, the Brooklyn, New York-based Patel was most recently the Head of Content at Vevo, the world’s largest music video platform. He has held similar positions at Vice Media, The Fader, and MTV News & Docs. He recently won two Clio Awards for films produced in partnership between The Fader and YouTube (2018 Gold, “Stormzy: Gang Signs & Prayer” and 2017 Silver “Aurora: Nothing is Eternal”).
While with Vice, Patel was the showrunner for the TV series The Vice Guide to Everything, producer of the “Vice on HBO” weekly news series pilot, and helped launch the Noisey and Creators Project platforms. At MTV, Patel created and directed the Hip-Hop documentary show My Block and oversaw the network’s Choose or Lose coverage around the 2008 Presidential Election. Patel currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Kari, and adorable pup, Gucci.
Patel is the son of an Indian father from Baroda, Gujarat and an Uganda-born-and-raised mother who later moved to Anand, Gujarat when she was 12. While at UC Davis, Patel was involved in the campus radio station, which was “the most transformative experience” of his life, he told GQ India. “I discovered that there was this constellation of people connected by music, all around the world.”
He is currently directing an upcoming documentary based on the best-selling book “Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop.”