Before Oprah – before Arsenio – there was Mr. SOUL! Ellis Haizlip made television broadcast history with SOUL!, America’s first “black Tonight Show.” The documentary titled Mr. SOUL! which brilliantly profiles Haizlip is right on time given the subject with Black Lives Matter and the current state of our country and our communities addressing racism in a meaningful manner – Haizlip’s story and his inspiration is now even more important. Mr. SOUL! comes to theaters and cinemas across the nation through the virtual cinema platform starting August 28, 2020.
Mr. SOUL! premiered at Tribeca 2018 where audiences embraced the film and went on to win a number of awards on the festival circuit playing over 30 film festivals including HOT DOCS, AFI Docs, BFI London, Woodstock Film Fest, Pan African Film Festival, Urban World, Los Angeles Film Festival and more. The film has won over 17 awards including the International Documentary Association (IDA) Best Music Documentary; the Library of Congress Lavine-Ken Burns Film Award Finalist Prize; AFI Docs Audience Award; Woodstock Best Documentary; and many more.
Right on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement, one fearless black pioneer reignited a Harlem Renaissance for a new era, ushering giants and rising stars of Black American culture onto the national television stage. He was hip. He was smart. He was innovative, political and gay. In his personal fight for social equality, this man ensured the revolution would be televised. The man was Ellis Haizlip. The Revolution was SOUL! – an amazing weekly television show that aired on public television from 1968 – 1973 celebrating Black American culture, art, life and community and shared it with the nation via the airwaves.
Featuring rare live performances and interviews from the legendary Al Green, heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, Sidney Poitier, Cicely Tyson, James Baldwin, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, Ashford and Simpson, Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, Billy Preston, Black Ivory, The Delfonics, Bill Withers, Nikki Giovanni, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Sonia Sanchez, The Last Poets, Wilson Pickett, Odetta, Merry Clayton, Mandrill, Kool and the Gang, Toni Morrison, Kathleen Cleaver, Betty Shabazz, Stokely Carmichael, Mrs. George Jackson, George Faison, Patti Labelle and many more, the film Mr. SOUL!is directed and produced by Melissa Haizlip featuring music composed by Grammy® winning musician/composer Robert Glasper with narration by Blair Underwood – one of the film’s producers.
Mr. SOUL! was among the first national show 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 our nation’s cultural rise and whose impact continues to resonate.