EXCLUSIVE: Before Oprah and Arsenio, there was a man named Ellis Haizlip. From 1968-1973, Haizlip hosted a groundbreaking weekly TV show called SOUL! that aired on PBS networks that celebrated the Black community and changed the television landscape. Ellis’ niece and documentary filmmaker Melissa Haizlip puts the spotlight on the game-changing show in the documentary Mr. Soul! which will make its world premiere later this month at the Tribeca Film Festival.
In the first teaser trailer (watch above), we see Haizlip’s show and how the show awakened and celebrated African American culture and ethnic identity in the country — something that had never been done at the time. We see a collage of legendary figures in film, music, culture, and the arts that appeared as guests on his show including Muhammad Ali, Sidney Poitier, Cicely Tyson, James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Maya Angelou, Donny Hathaway, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Patti Labelle and a robust roster of icons that shaped and showcased Black culture.
Haizlip was the producer, creator, and host of the show and has is known as a television pioneer who reconceived a Harlem Renaissance for a new era. He was one of the few openly gay black men during this time period and during this time, he moved the needle in terms of Black art, culture, politics, music, and life. He challenged the community and the nation at large to think and celebrate “in color,” while he also raised the awareness of the issues that were facing an American steeped in the Vietnam war and the rise of many urban communities.
Mr. Soul! chronicles the Haizlip’s journey with this show and how it paved the way for Black Power TV, ensuring that the Revolution would be televised.