- Director: Sam Pollard; Melissa Haizlip
- Writer: Melissa Haizlip
- Producer: Melissa Haizlip
Essential viewing...if you are studying American contemporary history, especially Black history. And, an essential tribute - and, overdue obituary - for a man who was a true visionary - a curator of the Arts.
Don't expect a warts-and-all exposé of Mr Haizlip's private life, he was a private gay man and the film respects that...perhaps, a little too much. Because...we really get to know nothing about the man himself. There is more to this man than what is shown: Being black, being gay, rubbing shoulders with nascent icons, living through those tumultuous years of the Vietnam war and the Civil Rights movement, Mr Haizlips's life is rich pickings. But, the filmmakers chose to focus - solely - on his relatively short-lived, massively influential TV programme: Soul!
This is a catalogue of those who appeared and soundbites from those who loved him. He challenged his audience and championed the lesser-appreciated artforms...he really did deserve a film that evoked the same kind of emotion that he managed to create...through careful curation.
Still, as an introduction to... and, a memory of...this multi-faceted man - it does a fine and respectful job.
Premiering in 1968, SOUL! was the first nationally broadcast all-Black variety show on public television, merging artists from the margins with post–civil rights Black radical thought. Visionary producer-turned-host Ellis Haizlip—openly gay and committed to charting new aesthetic territory—brought the avant-garde into the mainstream by foregrounding poetry and politics. Debuting icons like Patti Labelle, Ashford & Simpson and Arsenio Hall alongside early legends such as Toni Morrison, James Baldwin and the Last Poets, Haizlip's keen ear for talent propelled a cultural shift so powerful it pushed Nixon into action. Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Kathleen Cleaver and more reflect on this lost chapter of pop culture history and revisit their time on SOUL! With original music by Robert Glasper, take a deep dive into these unseen yet urgent archives and learn about the complex man who was the SOUL! of it all.