The legacy of the Apollo Theater is not ingrained in pop culture, but Black culture. Icons like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Aretha Franklin have graced its stage. Even former president Barack Obama made an appearance at the theater during his 2007 campaign.
The Apollo’s beloved place in our hearts and Blackness is explored in Roger Ross Williams’s new documentary The Apollo, which takes viewers through decades of Black history and the Apollo’s place in it all.
The doc was selected to open this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, where they screened the project inside the Apollo’s historic walls.
Beginning with the theater’s founding in 1913 to it’s various setbacks, triumphs, and current history, The Apollo goes beyond documenting the ups and downs of the theater. Instead, it examines the community and people who made the theater what it is and how artists redefined Black culture in America on the small stage way above Broadway.
The doc features footage of a young Lauryn Hill hitting the stage pre-Fugees fame, Diana Ross with the Supremes, Redd Foxx, Stevie Wonder, Richard Pryor, and more who made the theater what it is.
Fittingly, the story of the Apollo is framed by the 2018 performance of Between the World and Me, a stage version of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ acclaimed novel. As the film moves through America’s Black history, Coates’ words are brought to life, underscoring the things we know to be true as Black people in America.
Making the documentary that much more powerful is a score from Grammy-Award-winning musician Robert Glasper, the perfect choice for such a powerful film.
There’s no exact date for when the documentary will receive a wide release—HBO is behind the project—but fans can expect to see the Apollo in all its glory this fall.
The Tribeca Film Festival continues until Monday.