Mr. SOUL! (2018)
February 21, 2023 3:18 PM - Subscribe

From 1968 to 1973, the first all-Black public-television variety show SOUL!, guided by sharp gay producer and host Ellis Haizlip, offered an uncompromising celebration of Black literature, poetry, music, and politics. This documentary about Haizlip and his show includes clips of live performances from The Last Poets, Al Green, Earth Wind and Fire, literary figures like Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin, politics, dance and more. 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. On HBO.

2020 NYT article about the doc at

A good snippet starts at 1:02:06, with a great, too-short clip of Earth, Wind and Fire and a fun quote from Questlove.
posted by mediareport (1 comment total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This was a fantastic documentary with so much period detail and rich insight into the Black cultures of the era, along with the exploration of Haizlip's career and personal life. The section starting at 1:29:04 excerpting Nixon's White House tapes while he's discussing defunding PBS is just wow:

"I just want to stop this the fight is how do we get at this without our saying that we're trying to kick Bill Moyers and some BLACK off the air?"

I wish the film had been able to include more, and more of, the music performances but I'm sure the rights were prohibitive. Still, there are some great moments featuring artists like Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, Billy Preston, the Delfonics, Tito Puente... I especially loved the poetry, including lots of Black women poets, and the clips of modern dance. The surprising moment when Haizlip confronts Elijah Muhammad about the Nation of Islam's stance on homosexuality was fascinating, but ultimately disappointing as he mostly lets Muhammad off the hook to spew nonsense, but still - that moment, in the early 1970s, on public TV? Wow.

Well worth the hour and 45 minutes. Great little doc.
posted by mediareport at 3:42 PM on February 21

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