Mr. SOUL!, An Uncensored, Uncompromising Celebration of Black Joy

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( ENSPIRE Entertainment ) An Award-Winning Film Celebrating Ellis Haizlip, the Trailblazing Producer and Host of the Groundbreaking PBS Variety Show, ‘Mr. SOUL!’

ENSPIRE Contributor: LaShonda Thompson

Mr. SOUL was before Oprah and Arsenio! Mr. SOUL!, a public television variety show hosted by the enigmatic Ellis Haizlip, provided an uncensored and uncompromising celebration of music, politics, dance, Black literature, and poetry from 1968 until 1973. SOUL! was the first national variety show to present a broader range of African Americans on television, turning the focus away from inner-city poverty and violence and toward the vibrant Black Arts Movement. Mr. SOUL! depicts a pivotal period in our nation’s cultural ascent, whose significance continues to echo across decades and cultures, thanks to participant recollections and a plethora of archive clips.

The audience will enjoy the rich cultural moments with astonishing footage of interviews and rare live performances by icons and luminaries such as Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Nikki Giovanni, James Baldwin, Cicely Tyson, Harry Belafonte, Muhammad Ali, The Last Poets, Earth, Wind & Fire, Sidney Poitier, Mavis Staples, Black Ivory, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Maya Angelou, Billy Preston, Toni Morrison, Bill Withers, Sonia Sanchez, Wilson Pickett, Kool & the Gang, Roberta Flack, Kathleen Cleaver, Amiri Baraka, Carmen de Lavallade, George Faison, Melba Moore, Max Roach, and a 16-year-old Arsenio Hall making his television debut performing magic tricks.

Mr. Soul
Photo Credit: Mr. SOUL!

Mr. SOUL! made its world premiere at the TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL, where viewers embraced it with standing ovations and sold-out screenings. Mr. SOUL! received 33 nominations and won 21 awards, including 14 film festival awards. Mr. SOUL! screened at over 50 film festivals worldwide, including HOT DOCS, AFI Docs, BFI London, True/False, Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, Woodstock Film Festival, Pan African Film Festival, etc. Urbanworld, Los Angeles Film Festival, and more. Mr. SOUL! was nominated for three NAACP Image Awards and won for Outstanding Writing in a Documentary (Television or Motion Picture). In 2020, Mr. SOUL! was nominated for five Critics Choice Documentary Awards, including Best Documentary Feature, and won Best First Documentary Feature award. The film won the International Documentary Association IDA Doc Award for Best Music Documentary, the Finalist Award for the Inaugural Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film, the Audience Award at both AFI Docs and Woodstock Film Festival. Mr. SOUL! was nominated for a Cinema Eye Honors for Outstanding Debut Feature. The film made its PBS premiere on Independent Lens during Black History Month 2021.

“Making the film helped us illuminate the groundbreaking cultural work of Ellis Haizlip, the man behind one of the most successful and socially significant, Black-produced television shows in U.S. history,” said director Melissa Haizlip. “We’re truly grateful for the opportunity to both introduce and reintroduce the SOUL! series, the music, and Ellis Haizlip to the world. ‘SOUL!’ is the greatest show you’ve ever heard of. And up until now, my uncle Ellis Haizlip has been a bit of an unsung hero. We’re beyond honored to have Mr. SOUL! premiere on HBO Max on August 1st. It’s both thrilling and historic for our film to be part of such dynamic programming, a platform making a commitment to amplifying diverse stories and voices, a mandate which we need now, more than ever. We hope our film and the music, artists, and creators it celebrates will help to center Black excellence and Black joy. It’s so exciting to see audiences discovering Ellis Haizlip as this hidden figure and unsung hero. Creating this love letter to Black culture helps to elevate all of the significant contributions African Americans and people of color have made to the culture and the nation.”

Mr. Soul
Photo Credit: Roger Ebert

“After seeing Melissa’s doc, I knew I wanted everyone to see it. This documentary showcases one of our Queer icons who never received his just due. He put Black people center stage and didn’t care if it was a huge success. He just wanted to leave an impact, and that he did,” says Lena Waithe.

Executive Producers Chaz Ebert, record executive, and film producer Ron Gillyard, producer and director Stan Lathan, Hillman Grad Productions producing partner Rishi Rajani, Run&Shoot Filmworks CEO Stephanie T. Rance, actor and producer Blair Underwood and Emmy award-winning writer, producer, and Hillman Grad Productions CEO, Lena Waithe are proud to announce the critically acclaimed documentary Mr. SOUL! will premiere on HBO Max on August 1, 2021. The film, produced and directed by Melissa Haizlip, won Best First Documentary Feature at the 2020 Critics Choice Documentary Awards and Outstanding Writing in a Documentary (Television or Motion Picture) at the 52nd NAACP Image Awards. “Mr. SOUL!” was also shortlisted at the 93rd Academy Awards in the category of Best Original Song for “Show Me Your Soul” by Grammy Award-winning composer Robert Glasper and Grammy Award-winning singer Lalah Hathaway.

Mr. Soul
Photo Credit: Soul of Sydney

Hillman Grad Records / Def Jam Recordings, a part of UMG Recordings, Inc., will release the highly anticipated Mr. SOUL! soundtrack. “Show Me Your Soul,” performed by Lalah Hathaway and written by Robert Glasper, Lalah Hathaway, Muhammad Ayers, and Melissa Haizlip, will be the first single from the soundtrack.

The trailer for Mr. Soul is available for viewing HERE. Mr. SOUL! will premiere on HBO Max on August 1, 2021

For more information on Mr. SOUL!, you can visit their website or social media listed below.

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