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From 1968 to 1973, the public television variety show SOUL!, guided by the enigmatic producer and host Ellis Haizlip, offered an uncompromising celebration of Black culture. The series was among the first 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. Mr. SOUL! captures a critical moment in culture whose impact continues to resonate, and an unsung hero whose voice we need now more than ever.

Mr. Soul! was listed by the The American Library Association (ALA)’s Film and Media Round Table as one of its 12 Outstanding and Notable films for 2022: “a celebration of and an ode to Blackness”.


  • The New Yorker
    An enthralling and illuminating documentary about Ellis Haizlip and the “Soul!"'s place in history.
    Copious interviews with scholars and artists, along with the show’s co-producer Christopher Lukas, detail Haizlip’s bold vision of the political role of the arts—further seen in the infuriating story of its cancellation, which involved Richard Nixon
    Richard Brody
  • Forbes
    Mr. Soul... provides a lot more than a history lesson on a decades-old T.V. show and its profound contribution to black arts and culture. It's also a rich, deeply affecting profile of Haizlip himself, and an exuberant cinematic celebration of some of the best – and boldest – performances ever seen on television
    David Alm
  • CBS This Morning
    New Documentary Shines Light On Historic Black Variety Show ‘SOUL!’
    Some of the most remarkable footage that we have is just amazing, when you see the young Al Green, and he is just absolutely gorgeous, and has so much energy, and you can just see the soul coming out of him
    CBS LA Staff
  • Variety
    “Mr. Soul!” is a documentary that’s been gathering steam and generating Oscar buzz, and when you see it (which you really should), you’ll know why.
    Owen Gleiberman
  • Deadline
    The world needs this variety of storytelling now more than ever, and all of these documentaries moved us in unique ways
    Pete Hammond
  • New York Times
    A documentary resurrects the magic of “Soul!,” a boundary-pushing public television show that celebrated the rich diversity of Black culture in the ’60s and ’70s.
    Devika Girish
  • Good Morning America
    Paying tribute to the 1st black late night show
    Filmmaker Melissa Haizlip talks about her film “Mr. Soul!” which remembers her uncle, Ellis Haizlip, America’s first black nighttime talk show host.
    ABC News staff
  • KCRW Press Play
    “Some folks thought it would be a good idea to make ‘the Black Tonight Show.’ But I think the idea really was to change the public perception of Black America and really to create a space”
    Madeleine Brand
  • CLTure
    Mr. SOUL!’s director Melissa Haizlip explores the seminal work born from her Uncle Ellis, from its genesis in 1968 to its racially motivated cancellation after 130 episodes in 1973 due to political pressure
    Douglas Davidson
  • On The New Film “MR. SOUL!”
    In today’s guest post, Gayle Wald shares her appreciation for the TV show Soul! and the new movie Mr. Soul!, about its creator, Ellis Haizlip. Wald is Professor of American Studies at George Washington University and author of It′s Been Beautiful: Soul! and Black Power Television (2015).
    Gayle Wald, Duke University Press Website

Festival Participation

  • Black Reel Awards - 2021
    Outstanding Independent Documentary
  • Guild of Music Supervisors Awards - 2021
    Best Music Supervision for a Documentary: Ed Gerrard Nominee
  • NAACP Image Awards - 2021
    Outstanding Writing in a Documentary (Television or Motion Picture)
  • Critic's Choice Documentary Awards - 2020
    Best First Documentary Feature
  • FOCAL International Awards - 2019
    Best Use of Footage in an Entertainment Production; Student Jury Award for Most Inspiring Use of Archive
  • Library of Congress Lavine / Ken Burns Prize for Film - 2019
    Finalist Award Winner
  • Woodstock Film Festival - 2018
    Audience Award - Best Documentary
  • International Documentary Association Awards - 2018
    Best Music Documentary
  • AFI Docs Festival - 2018
    Audience Award - Best Feature Documentary
  • All Genders, Lifestyles, and Identities Film Festival (aGLIFF) - 2018
    Jury Award - Best Documentary; Audience Award - Best Documentary
  • Dallas DocuFest - 2018
  • Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival - 2018
    Audience Award
  • Indie Memphis Film Festival - 2018
    Jury Award - Best Sounds Feature
  • Indie Memphis Film Festival - 2018
    Audience Award - Best Sounds Feature
  • Urbanworld Film Festival - 2018
    HBO Jury Award - Best Documentary
  • Pan African Film & Arts Festival - 2018
    Best Feature Documentary
  • Martha's Vineyard African American Film Festival - 2018
    HBO Jury Award - Best Documentary; Audience Award - Best Documentary
  • Sound Unseen Film & Music Festival - 2018
    Special Jury Award
  • Oscar Shortlist - 2021
    Best Original Song Nominee
  • NAACP Image Awards - 2021
    Outstanding Documentary (Film) Nominee, Outstanding Breakthrough Creative Nominee
  • Cinema Eye Honors - 2021
    Outstanding Debut Feature Nominee
  • Critic's Choice Documentary Awards Nominations - 2020
    Best Narration: Blair Underwood; Melissa Haizlip, Writer; Best Archival Documentary; Best Historical / Biographical Documentary

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