Clips From the Exhilarating ‘Mr. Soul!’ Documentary Honor Ellis Haizlip
From 1968 to 1973, a small public-TV studio in New York morphed into an intimate cathedral for honoring Black culture in all of its rich variety, from roof-raising gospel and cutting-edge funk to provocative modern dance and incendiary poetry of the revolution. The show, which aired nationally, was called Soul!, and to describe it as groundbreaking barely does it justice.
“Soul! makes Blacks visible in a society where they have been largely invisible,” explained the show’s late producer and host, Ellis Haizlip (above center). He’s the star and spirit of Mr. Soul!, an acclaimed 2020 documentary that finally comes full circle to public TV on Independent Lens.
Haizlip’s gentle, professorial persona masked a radical’s zeal for transforming a medium with words, movement and music that had never been granted access to such a platform. The clips are exhilarating in their joy and sometimes anger, and while Soul! eventually was silenced by politicized budget cuts from the Nixon administration, its message that Black voices matter lives on.
Mr. Soul!, Documentary Premiere, Monday, February 22, 10/9c, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)