SOUL! host Eliis Haizlip and the JC White Singers
ABOUT Mr. SOUL!
Before Oprah, before Arsenio, there was Mr. SOUL!
Patti LaBelle on SOUL! – photo by Chester Higgins
Gladys Knight performing on SOUL!
King Curtis on SOUL!
ABOUT THE VARIETY SERIES SOUL!
Created and hosted by the theater producer Ellis Haizlip, and produced by a Black women–led crew, “SOUL!” mixed high and low culture with an avant-garde eclecticism. Artists as varied as Earth, Wind & Fire, Ashford & Simpson, Arsenio Hall, The Last Poets and Toni Morrison made their TV debuts on the show; poet Nikki Giovanni interviewed author James Baldwin; singers Al Green and Stevie Wonder electrified the in-studio audiences, and Haizlip graciously yet incisively interviewed a number of political figures, including Black Panthers Kathleen Cleaver and Stokely Carmichael, and the controversial heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali. From 1968 to 1973, the show was recorded before a live audience at WNET Channel Thirteen, the flagship PBS station in New York City. Producer and host Ellis Haizlip wanted SOUL! to be something more than a “Black Tonight Show,” a format he felt was inadequate for his vision. Though a resounding success, especially among African-American viewers, the show faced pressures from the Nixon White House. Haizlip fought to champion the series, committed to curating the culture, the fluidity of Black thought and identity. SOUL! was one of the most successful and culturally significant Black-produced television shows in U.S. television history, paving the way for today’s Black television hosts.
ABOUT THE GREENLIGHT WOMEN FILMMAKER GRANT AWARD
The GreenLight Women Filmmaker Grant Program is the philanthropic arm of GreenLight Women and provides financial support for artists, filmmakers, writers and producers. This “gift aid” enables women artists over 40 to launch or complete a project. Grants are presented to recipients after careful consideration and review by the Filmmaker Grant Program jury.
MEET OUR SPECIAL GUESTS
(Click on photo to view bio)
Featuring 2021 GreenLight Women Filmmaker Grant Award Winner Melissa Haizlip
Mr. Soul!’ Review:
Televising the Revolution, With Great Songs
A documentary resurrects the magic of “Soul!,” a boundary-pushing public television show that celebrated the rich diversity of Black culture in the ’60s and ’70s.
By Devika Girish
Aug. 27, 2020
In one of the many remarkable archival clips in the documentary “Mr. Soul!,” a 20-something Al Green croons “Love and Happiness” on live TV. Seen in front of him in long shot are the bobbing heads of an enraptured audience. They form — as the writer Greg Tate describes in an interview — a “sea of big, bold Afros.”
This moment captures the spirit of “Soul!,” a boundary-pushing variety show that aired on PBS from 1968 to 1973 with the aim of sharing the diversity of Black culture, as it emerged during the Civil Rights struggle and the Black Arts Movement, with the Black public.
Created and hosted by the theater producer Ellis Haizlip, and produced by a Black women–led crew, “Soul!” mixed high and low culture with an avant-garde eclecticism. Artists as varied as Earth, Wind &
Fire, the Last Poets and Toni Morrison made their TV debuts on the show; Nikki Giovanni read poetry set to gospel music; and Haizlip graciously yet incisively interviewed a number of political figures, including Louis Farrakhan, whom the openly gay host questioned about homophobia in the Nation of Islam. Though a resounding success, especially among African-American viewers, the show faced — and ultimately buckled under — pressures from the Nixon White House.
Directed by Melissa Haizlip (Ellis’s niece), “Mr. Soul!” resurrects the magic of “Soul!,” partly through dense audiovisual collage. Warm, fuzzy archival excerpts are layered with interviews and quotes, and set to infectiously groovy music. Broad in scope and rapidly paced, the film can feel as if it’s bursting at the seams. But it acutely conveys the radical joy that “Soul!” inspired, barely contained in the movie’s running time.
CRITICS’ CHOICE DOCUMENTARY AWARDS
Best First Documentary
IMAGE AWARDS (NAACP)
Outstanding Writing in a Documentary
AFI DOCS FEST – AUDIENCE AWARD
INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY ASSOCIATION
Best Music Documentary
PAN AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL
WOODSTOCK FILM FESTIVAL
Best Documentary Feature