Before Oprah, before Arsenio, there was ” SOUL!” From 1968 to 1973, the public television variety show, “SOUL!”, guided by producer and host Ellis Haizlip, offered an unfiltered and uncompromising celebration of music, politics, dance, Black literature, and poetry. “SOUL!” was the first national variety show to provide expanded images of African Americans on television, shifting the gaze from inner-city poverty and violence to the vibrancy of the Black Arts Movement. With participants’ recollections and myriad archival clips, “Mr. SOUL!” captures a critical moment in our nation’s cultural rise, whose impact continues to resonate across generations and cultures.
“Mr. SOUL!” celebrates rich cultural moments with astonishing footage of interviews and rare performances by icons and luminaries such as Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Nikki Giovanni interviewing James Baldwin, Cicely Tyson, Harry Belafonte, Muhammad Ali, The Last Poets, Earth, Wind & Fire, Sidney Poitier, Mavis Staples, Black Ivory, Maya Angelou, Billy Preston, Toni Morrison, Bill Withers, Sonia Sanchez, Wilson Pickett, Kool & the Gang, Roberta Flack, Kathleen Cleaver, Amiri Baraka, Carmen de Lavallade, Melba Moore, Max Roach, and a 16-year-old Arsenio Hall making his television debut performing magic tricks.
“We are humbled and honored for ‘Mr. SOUL!’ to receive the Peabody Award,” says Melissa Haizlip, the film’s director and the niece of the host Ellis Haizlip. “Ellis Haizlip was an extraordinary producer and visionary. We are beyond grateful for Ellis Haizlip’s pioneering work on ‘SOUL!’ and his legacy to be recognized by the Peabody committee. It is an extraordinary honor for this film to receive such a prestigious award reflecting excellence in quality storytelling.”
Prior to the PBS premiere, “Mr. SOUL!” received 33 nominations and won 21 awards, including the Critics’ Choice Documentary Award for Best First Feature Documentary; the Best Music Documentary at the IDA Doc Awards; the Best Feature Documentary at the Pan African Film & Arts Festival; the Audience Award for Best Feature at AFI DOCS Film Festival in Washington, D.C.; the HBO Jury Award and Audience Award at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival; the Library of Congress Lavine / Ken Burns Prize for Film Finalist Award; and the Audience Award at the Woodstock Film Festival.