FILM

Mr. Soul

Dir. Melissa Haizlip | 99 min
Documentary United States 2020
English

From 1968 to 1973, the public-television variety show SOUL!, guided by the enigmatic producer and host Ellis Haizlip, offered an unfiltered, uncompromising celebration of black literature, poetry, music, and politics—voices that had few other options for national exposure, and, as a result, found the program an improbable place to call home. The series was among the first to provide expanded images of African Americans on television, shifting the gaze from inner-city poverty and violence to the vibrancy of the Black Arts Movement. With participants’ recollections and a bevy of great archival clips, Mr. Soul! captures a critical moment in culture whose impact continues to resonate.

Mr. Soul!, the documentary feature film directed and produced by Melissa Haizlip, celebrates the groundbreaking PBS series from its genesis to its eventual loss of funding against the backdrop of a swiftly changing political and social landscape, while profiling Ellis Haizlip, the charismatic man behind one of the most culturally significant and successful television shows in U.S. history.

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