Mr. SOUL!

In 1968, Ellis Haizlip created SOUL!, a public television variety show celebrating black culture, whose impact on representation continues to resonate.

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Series
Independent Lens
Funding Initiative
Diversity Development Fund
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    2018 International Documentary Association (IDA)-Best Music
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    The Film

    In 1968, producer Ellis Haizlip developed a new show aimed at black audiences, one that used the familiar variety-show format to display and celebrate the breadth of black culture. For five years, the public television series SOUL! highlighted black literature, music, and politics, and often paired guests in unexpected juxtapositions that gave them an opportunity to shine in unique ways. Haizlip presided over the show as an unusual, unassuming host who conducted interviews with both an intense interest and laid-back style, attracting notable, eclectic figures to the show, and providing a national platform for previously unheard voices.

    The show quickly gained critical praise and public support as one of the first platforms to expand the image of African Americans on television and shift their representation from inner-city poverty and violence to the vibrancy of the Black Arts Movement. Despite pressure from producers and government administrations, the show never wavered in its celebration of all facets of black culture, from ballet dancers to blues singers. Mr. SOUL! delves into this critical moment in television history, as well as the man who guided it, through participants’ recollections and archival footage, highlighting a turning point in representation whose impact continues to resonate to this day.

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