For five years in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Ellis Haizlip presided over one of the most culturally significant television shows in U.S. history. SOUL!, on PBS, probed and celebrated the African American experience, from interviews with Harry Belafonte, Muhammad Ali, and James Baldwin to performances by Patti LaBelle, Al Green, and Stevie Wonder.
Haizlip was producer and laid-back host.
The groundbreaking series and the man who guided it are showcased in the documentary Mr. SOUL!, which is screened in the latest online installment of the Indie Lens Pop-Up cinema initiative. A series of live performances and a live-chat discussion with writer, producer, and director Melissa Haizlip – Haizlip’s niece – follows.
Originally released in 2018 and re-released last August, Mr. SOUL! features archival footage and the recollections of many who participated in the elder Haizlip’s show. The public television series, which ended in 1973 due to a lack of funding, spotlighted Black literature, poetry, and politics as well as music, and earned critical praise and public support as one of the first platforms to expand the image of African American on TV. Haizlip shifted their representation from inner-city poverty and violence to the vibrancy of the Black Arts Movement.
The online event is co-presented by Black Public Media, and the WNET Group in collaboration with Arizona Public Media, Bud Werner Memorial Library, Charitable Film Network, City of Mesa, Durango Public Library, Gary International Black Film Festival, Georgia Public Broadcasting, Global Peace Film Festival, Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking, Kellogg-Hubbard Library, Panhandle PBS, PBS Hawai‘i, Pickford Film Center, Tillotson Center, Upstate Films Ltd., WSIU Public Broadcasting, and Yale Film Archive. Support comes from ITVS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS.