Woods Hole Film Festival presents “Mr. Soul!”

The Woods Hole Film Festival will host a free virtual screening of the documentary “Mr. SOUL!” a feature documentary (2018, 90 minutes) by Melissa Haizlip from Saturday, February 25 through Friday, March 3.

The film won a Peabody award for best documentary in 2022 and was nominated for an Emmy.

“MR. SOUL!” tells the story of “SOUL!” the variety show devoted to the African American experience, and of Ellis Haizlip, the producer whose broad vision helped to define it. Haizlip was the host and executive producer of SOUL!, the first “black Tonight Show.” In 1968, SOUL! was launched as a local, New York broadcast. In 1969 the series rolled out nationwide on PBS, on WNET Channel 13. By 1973, Haizlip had produced over 130 hour-long shows featuring a dazzling array of A-list guests: Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, James Baldwin, Stevie Wonder, Maya Angelou, Ashford and Simpson, Nikki Giovanni, Al Green and Muhammad Ali, and even a sixteen-year-old Arsenio Hall doing magic tricks.

Who was this innovator, determined to fight for liberation and acceptance through cultural expression? Why did this Emmy Award-winning show lose funding at the height of the Black Arts Movement? How is SOUL! relevant today, when diversity in media remains a paramount issue?

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. With participants’ recollections and illuminating archival clips, Mr. SOUL! captures a critical moment in culture whose impact continues to resonate.

Mr. SOUL! invites us behind-the-scenes of this groundbreaking phenomenon, from its initial conception to its final broadcast, including the very public battle to keep it on the air despite a shifting political landscape.  The film starts a new dialogue about this critical moment in American broadcast history while offering a nuanced and fascinating portrait of the soul behind SOUL!, Ellis Haizlip and his personal fight for social equality.

Melissa Haizlip, the niece of Ellis Haizlip and a Woods Hole Film Festival alumnus, is an award-winning filmmaker born in Boston and raised in the US Virgin Islands, Connecticut and New York. Melissa is the 2016 Artist in Residence at the National Black Programming Consortium, and participated in the 2015 NALIP ARC Diverse Women In Media Residency. She is a Chaz and Roger Ebert Producing Fellow, and an alumnus of Film Independent’s Project: Involve, Firelight Media Documentary Lab, and the PGA Diversity Workshop. In 2009, Melissa founded Shoes In The Bed Productions, an independent film production company producing cinematic works of non-fiction with an emphasis on diverse new voices and filmmakers of color.

Register here. Mr. Soul! will be available to watch online for FREE from February 25 through March 3. Attendees will receive a separate email with instructions on how to view the film.

The Woods Hole Film Festival is supported in part by a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Falmouth Cultural Council, the Woods Hole Foundation, the Cape Cod Foundation, the Martha’s Vineyard Bank Foundation and the Cape Cod 5 Charitable Foundation Trust.

For more information email info@woodsholefilmfestival.org or call (508) 495-3456.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s