Mr. SOUL!
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Mr. SOUL!

  • BY Melissa Haizlip | IN Arts & Culture
    Premiered February 22, 2021

About the Film

In 1968, America’s first Black variety show, “SOUL!,” helmed by producer and host Ellis Haizlip, premiered on public television. The pioneering series ran for five years, cementing itself as not only a vehicle to celebrate African American artistry, community, and culture but also as a platform for political expression and a powerful force in the fight for social justice. Mr. SOUL! portrays in exquisite detail a revolutionary time in American culture and entertainment through vibrant archival footage and interviews with numerous Black luminaries who appeared on “SOUL!,” or were impacted by it. MORE

While chronicling the journey of “SOUL!,” Mr. SOUL! recounts the life and contributions of the late Haizlip, who was steeped in the New York City arts community prior to creating the show. Ellis quickly stepped into the role of host of his creation, where his earnest demeanor, low-key interviewing style, and his passion for the Black artistic community and their works—including books, the spoken word, music, film, and dance—culminated in a show that depicted the Black experience in a bold and unapologetic way. Haizlip’s creation shifted the media focus from what was then uniformly images of inner-city poverty and violence, to instead shine a light on the vibrant contemporary Black Arts Movement. 

With award-winning performer Blair Underwood providing the voice of Ellis Haizlip, Mr. SOUL! features not only archival performances from music legends such as Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, Diahann Carroll, B.B. King, and Patti LaBelle, but also spoken word performances from The Last Poets and Sonia Sanchez, dance performances by Carmen de Lavallade, and interviews with James Baldwin, Nikki Giovanni, Muhammad Ali and Maya Angelou, among many others. Artists such as Harry Belafonte, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, and activist and former Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver share their recollections about the show and its tremendous impact on them and their careers.


The Filmmaker

Melissa Haizlip is an award-winning filmmaker based in New York. Her work responds to pressing social issues at the intersection of racial justice, social justice, activism, and representation. Female transformation and empowerment are at the core of all of her ideas, with the goal being to advocate and amplify the voices of women and people of color. Melissa’s feature documentary, Mr. SOUL!, won the 2020 Critics Choice Documentary Award for Best First Feature Documentary. In 2019, Mr. SOUL! was awarded as a finalist for the inaugural Library of Congress  Lavine / Ken Burns Prize for Film, a new, annual prize that recognizes a filmmaker whose documentary uses original research and compelling narrative to tell stories that touch on some aspect of American history. Mr. SOUL! premiered at Tribeca and screened at 50 festivals, receiving 16 Jury and Audience Awards for Best Documentary, and the 2019 FOCAL Award for Best Use of Archival Footage in an Entertainment Production. Melissa directed and produced Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop and produced You’re Dead to Me (2013) directed by Wu Tsang, about a grieving Chicana mother coming to terms with the loss of her transgender child on Día de los Muertos. The film won Best Short at the 2014 Imagen Awards, and screened at over 50 festivals and museums. Melissa’s two-channel art films have been exhibited by the Hammer Museum Los Angeles Biennial, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. LESS

Film Credits

Written & Produced by
Melissa Haizlip

Executive Producers
Chaz Ebert
Stan Lathan
Blair Underwood

Co-Producer
Doug Blush

Music Supervisor
Ed Gerrard

Original Source
Robert Glasper

Director of Photography
Hans Charles

Editors
Giovannie P. Autran
Annukka Lilja
Blair McClendon

Associate Producers
Vince Johnson
Leonard Joseph
David Magdael

Archival Research
Jim McDonnell

Archival Research & Clearances
Wyatt Stone

Main Titles and Animation
Mindbomb Films

Interviews
Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson
Beth Ausbrooks & Mary Wilburn
Obba Babatunde
Amiri Baraka
Harry Belafonte
Ronald Bell
Black Ivory: Leroy Burgess, Stuart Bascombe, Russell Patterson Kathleen Cleaver
Carmen De Lavallade
Leslie Demus
George Faison
Nikki Giovanni
Dr. Harold Haizlip
Thomas Allen Harris
Chester Higgins
Judith Jamison
Alice Labrie
The Last Poets: Abiodun Oyewole, Umar Bin Hassan
Stan Lathan
David Leeming
Sarah Lewis
Dr. Loretta Long
Felipe Luciano
Christopher Lukas
Sade Lythcott
Louis Massiah
Novella Nelson
David Peck
Dr. Alvin Poussaint
Hugh Price
Questlove
Sonia Sanchez
Rev. Dr. Cheryl Sanders
Greg Tate
Dr. Billy Taylor
Robert J. Thompson
Gayle Wald
Sylvia Waters

 

Academic Advisers
Aniko Bodroghkozy
John H. Bracey
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Melissa Harris-Perry
Louis Massiah
Hugh Price
Sonia Sanchez
Gayle Wald

Consulting Producers
Laurens Grant
Mable Haddock
Christopher Lukas
David Pec

Featuring the Photography of
Chester Higgins

Additional Cinematography
Henry Adebonojo
Ramulas Burgess
Cliff Charles
Bruce Francis Cole
Anne Etheridge
Errol Webber

2nd Camera
Christopher Frierson
Cybel Martin

Gaffer
Christian Epps

Assistant Camera
Sophia Bruza
Jacqueline Riede Dervay
Mary Evangelista
Isiah Donte Lee
Tukei Muhumuza
Brian Timmons

Camera Production Assistants
Imani Belser
Allen Dobbins
Hugo Lau
Justin Perro

Additional Editors
Benjamin Abrams
Steve Audette, Ace
Raj Debah
Larry Schmitt
Samuel Shapiro

Assistant Editors
Janah Cox
Arielle Davis
Daniel Garber
Christelle Powell

Sound Recording
Gautam Choudhury
Michelle Guasto
Mark Mandler
Kennard Morris
Caleb Mose
Brenda Ray
Jeff Towne
Jake Weeks
John Zecca

Unit Production Manager – LA Unite
John-Arthur Ingram

Post Production Supervisors
Julia Mintz
Zakia Smith

Project Manager
Isabel Cafaro-Anderson

Colorist
Allie Ames

Digital Image Restoration
Antoon Taghon

Sound Editor
Andre Netboy

Music Editor
Todd Kasow

Additional Music Editor
Evan Joseph

Supervising Sound Editor / Re-Recording Mixer
Benny Mouthon, CAS

Additional Re-Recording Mixer
Christopher Koch, CAS

Additional Graphics
Anthony Rhoads

Legal Services
Donaldson + Callif
Robert Freedman
Roger L. Patton

Publicity
David Magdael & Associates

Music Clearances
Cathy Carapella

Musicians
Piano & Keyboards - Robert Glasper Horns - Maurice Brown
Guitar & Bass - Marcus Machado Saxophone - Marcus Strickland Drums & Percussion - Anu Sun
Drums - Justin Tyson
Bass - Ben Williams
Vocals - Lalah Hathaway, Muhammad Ayers

Recorded at Red Bull Studios New York
Recording Engineer: Chris Tabron
Additional Engineering: Evan Sutton
Assistant Recording Engineers: Sean Frawley, Nate Odden, Brandon Peralta

Archival Footage and Stills
ABC News Videosource
The Associated Press
Bay Area TV Archive, San Francisco State University
Bert Andrews Collection / Marsha Hudson
Bert Andrews Collection / Claudia Menza Gallery
Bert Andrews Collection / Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library British Pathé
Jonathan Bachman / Reuters
"Lord Thing" and "1940s: Swimming- New York and Harlem" courtesy of New York Public Library CBS
Chicago Film Archives
Alva Chinn
Adger Cowans
CriticalPast
Ivan Cury
Diana Edmonds
Gaumont Pathé Archives
Global ImageWorks, LLC.
Ellis B. Haizlip Collection, Smithsonian Institution, Anacostia Community Museum
Haizlip Family
Lyle Ashton Harris Studio
Alex Harsley / Minority Photographers Inc.
Historic Films Archive, LLC
General Photograph Collection, Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
INA
James Baldwin Collection, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library
John P. Wymer Photograph Collection, Historical Society of Washington, D.C. / USC, School of Cinematic Arts Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum (National Archives and Records Administration) KFOR-TV
Kinolibrary
KPIX-TV
KQED
Ron Kurokawa
“1964 Malcolm X in Egypt” & “Betty Shabazz in NY” by John Launois © The Estate of John Launois Magnum Photos: Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos, Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos, Bruce
Davidson/Magnum Photos, Guy Le Querrec/Magnum Photos, Bruno Barbey/Magnum Photos
Rene Burri/Magnum Photos Robert H. McNeil
Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University Archives Howard University, Washington DC National Archives
NBCUniversal Archives
Oddball Films
David Oggi Ogburn Photography
Photograph by Gordon Parks, Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation
Polaris Images
Pond5: tbmpvideo/Pond5, Stockfilm/Pond5, Happyrojo/Pond5
Oklahoma Historical Society
Dr. Alvin Poussaint
Producers Library
Reda Archives
Reelin’ In the Years Productions
Reuters
The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum (National Archives and Records Administration) Rev. Dr. Cheryl Sanders
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Everett Collection/Shutterstock
Streamline Films, Inc.
Hank Smith Imagery
Svertiges TV
Third World Newsreel (TWN)
Thirteen Productions LLC
Thomas Allen Harris Photography
UCLA Film & Television Archive
University of Maryland
University of South Carolina MIRC
Morris Warman
Wazee Digital
WGBH Media Library & Archives
WNET
WPA Film Library

Poetry
“Great Pax Whitey” and “Kidnap Poem” by Permission of Author, Nikki Giovanni “Answer to Yo / Question” by Permission of Author, Sonia Sanchez
“Die Nigger” by Permission of Author, David Nelson
“Niggers Are Scared of Revolution” by Permission of Author, Umar Bin Hassan
“High on the Hog” by Permission of Author, Julia Fields
“Puerto Rican Rhythms” by Permission of Author, Felipe Luciano
“Nation Time” and “Bad News for Your Highness” by Permission of Author, Amiri Baraka

MUSIC
“Classical Gas”
Written and Performed by Mason Williams
Courtesy Of Skookum Records
Published By Weems Music Company

“Tired Of Being Alone”
Written by Al L. Green
Performed by Al Green
Courtesy Of Irving Music, Inc. (BMI) On Behalf Of Itself and Al Green Music

“The Ghetto”
Written by Donny Edward Hathaway & Leroy Hudson
Performed by Donny Hathaway
Courtesy Universal Music – MGB Songs On Behalf Of Itself and Kuumba Music

“Express Yourself”
Written by Charles Wright And The 103rd Street Band
Performed by Charles Wright
Courtesy Of Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp (BMI)

“Soul Theme”
Written by Curtis Ousley
Performed by King Curtis
Courtesy of Kiilynn Music Publishing (BMI) & Pronto Music

“Over The Rainbow”
Written By Harold Arlen & E. Harburg
Performed By Patti Labelle & The Bluebelles
Used By Permission Of Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

“Cold Water Flat”
Written By Phil Moore
Performed By Novella Nelson
Published By Ajax Music
Courtesy Of Alesa Blanchard Nelson

“I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free)”
Written by Billy Taylor & Dick Dallas
Performed by Billy Taylor
Courtesy Of Capitol Records
Under License From Universal Music Enterprises

“Everyday I Have The Blues” Written By Peter Chatman
Performed by B.B. King
Courtesy BMG Platinum Songs (BMI)
On Behalf Of Trio Music Company and Fort Knox Music Inc. (BMI)

“Oh, Happy Day”
Written by Edwin R. Hawkins
Performed by Wilson Pickett & Marion Williams

“Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)”
Written by Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson
Performed by Ashford & Simpson
Courtesy Jobete Music Corp.

“If I Were Your Woman”
Written by Gloria Jones, Clay Mcmurray, Pamela Joan Sawyer
Performed by Gladys Knight & The Pips
Courtesy Of Jobete Music Corp. Inc.

“Glory Glory”
Performed by Odetta
Courtesy of Rykodisc
By Arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing

“Joshua”
Performed by Odetta
Courtesy of Rykodisc
By Arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing

“Peace Be Still”
Written by James Cleveland
Performed by Nikki Giovanni & The New York Community Choir
Courtesy Of Screen Gems - EMI Music

“You And I”
Written by Stevie Wonder
Performed by Stevie Wonder
Black Bull Music, Jobete Music Corp. Inc. (ASCAP)
Used by permission of Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

“Let’s Stay Together”
Written by Al L. Green, Willie Mitchell, & Al Jr. Jackson
Performed By Al Green
Courtesy of Irving Music, Inc. on behalf of itself and Al Green Music Inc. (BMI) By arrangement with Universal Music Corp.

“Love And Happiness”
Written by Al L. Green & Mabon Lewis Hodges
Performed By Al Green
Courtesy of Irving Music, Inc. on behalf of itself and Al Green Music Inc. (BMI) By arrangement with Universal Music Corp.

“Grazin’ In The Grass”
Written by Philemon Hou, Harry Elston
Performed by Hugh Masekela & The Union Of South Africa
Used By Permission From Cherio Corp.

“Chocolate Buttermilk”
Written by Gene Redd, Robert Bell, Ronald Bell, George Brown, Robert
Mickens, Claydes Smith, Dennis Thomas, Richard Westfield, Woodrow Sparrow
Performed by Kool & The Gang
Courtesy of Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp (BMI)

“Let The Music Take Your Mind”
Written By Gene Redd, Robert Bell, Ronald Bell, George Brown, Robert
Mickens, Claydes Smith, Dennis Thomas, Richard Westfield, Woodrow Sparrow
Performed by Kool & The Gang
Courtesy of Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp (BMI)

“Git It All”
Written by Claud B. Cave II, Fred J. Solomon, Omar Mesa, Charles D. Padro, Louis W. Wilson, Ricardo A. Wilson, And Carlos Delano Wilson
Performed by Mandrill
Courtesy Intersong-Usa, Inc.
By Arrangement with Mandrill Music Publishing

“Manteca”
Written by Dizzie Gillespie, Gil Fuller, & Chano Pozo Gonzalez
Performed by Dizzie Gillespie & His Orchestra Courtesy of RCA Records
Published By Music Sales Corporation
By Arrangement With Sony Music Entertainment

“Para Los Rumberos”
Written by Tito Puente
Performed by Tito Puente Y Su Orquesta
Courtesy of EMI Longitude Music

“Power”
Written by Earth, Wind & Fire
Performed by Earth, Wind & Fire
Courtesy of Columbia Records
By Arrangement with Sony Music Entertainment

“It’s About That Time (Live Version)”
Written by Miles Davis
Performed by y Miles Davis
Courtesy Of Columbia Records
By Arrangement With Sony Music Entertainment

“Bitches Brew (Live Version)”
Written by Miles Davis
Performed by Miles Davis
Courtesy Of Columbia Records
By Arrangement With Sony Music Entertainment

“Motherless Child”
Performed by Max Roach with The J.C. White Singers Courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp.
By Arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & Tv Licensing

“Backlash Blues (2005 Remix)”
Written by Nina Simone & Langston Hughes

Performed By Nina Simone
Courtesy Of RCA Records
By Arrangement with Sony Music Entertainment

“Superstition”
Written by Stevie Wonder
Performed by Stevie Wonder & Wonderlove Black Bull Music, Jobete Music Corp. Inc. (Ascap)
Used by Permission Of Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

“Brand New Day”
Written by Van Morrison Performed by Miriam Makeba
Courtesy Of Wb Music Corp.
By Arrangement with Caldonia Soul Music

“Will It Go Round In Circles”
Written By Bruce Carleton Fisher & Billy Preston
Performed By Billy Preston & The God Squad Courtesy Of Irving Music, Inc. (BMI) / Almo Music Corp.

“A Song For You”
Written by Leon Russell
Performed by Donny Hathaway
Courtesy Of Atlantic Recording Corp.
By Arrangement With Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing

“I Miss You (Part I & II)”
Written by Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff
Performed by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, featuring Teddy Pendergrass
Courtesy of Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp (BMI)

“Show Me Your Soul”
Music Written by Robert Glasper, Lyrics Written by Muhammad Ayers
Performed by Lalah Hathaway
Rap Performed by Oswin Benjamin
Background Vocals by Lalah Hathaway, Muhammad Ayers Recorded And Mixed by Chris Tabron

Special Thanks
Elizabeth Alexander
Maria Agui Carter
Dave Dja
Julian Fleisher
Lewis Fowler
Dr. Harold Haizlip & Shirlee Taylor Haizlip
Anna Maria Horsford
Florence Ladd
Maysles Documentary Center
Lena Waithe
Don Wildman
Deborah Willis

Dedicated to
Novella Nelson
Dr. Harold C. Haizlip

Production Support Provided by
Film Independent | Project Involve
Firelight Media

Funding Provided by
National Endowment for the Humanities
Ford Foundation | JustFilms
Better Angels Society
National Endowment for the Arts
International Documentary Association Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund
Derrick Pete
Awesome Without Borders
Opiyo Okeyo
Puffin Foundation
Paul Savage & Family
Mr. & Mrs. Lee & Annetta Turner
Andrew & Mary Lou Stern
Marquita Pool-Eckert & Corrie A. Slawson
Drs. James & Jewelle Gibbs
Jackie & Derrick Ingram
Lauren Lexton & Kevin MacCarthy
Christian McBride
Stuart Reider
Royal Rodgers
Kim & Mitchel Whitehead
Rani G. Whitfield
Chris Bray
Alecia Mayrock
Diana Edmonds
Lowell Gibbs
LaRue Gibson
Trent Harville
Elizabeth Murray
Eileen Harris Norton
Juan Barnett
Dr. Amanuel Sima
Beth Federici
James Power
Roxana Prieto
And others.

 

Original Series Funding Provided by
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Wyncote Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts

 

Mr. SOUL! is a co-production of Shoes In The Bed Productions, Independent Television Service (ITVS), and Black Public Media (BPM) in association with WNET.

This program was produced by Shoes In The Bed Productions, which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2020 Shoes In The Bed Productions. All rights reserved.

 

Had you heard of "Mr. SOUL!"—Ellis Haizlip—before this documentary, and do you have any memories of watching the show originally? What shows carried on SOUL!'s legacy in the coming years?

AWARDS

  • Critics Choice Documentary Awards
    Best First Documentary Feature
  • International Documentary Association Award
    Best Music Documentary
  • Cinema Eye Honors
    Outstanding Debut Feature (Nominee)
Please review our comment guidelines.
Had you heard of "Mr. SOUL!"—Ellis Haizlip—before this documentary, and do you have any memories of watching the show originally? What shows carried on SOUL!'s legacy in the coming years?