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Mr. Soul!

Women Directed

Dir. Melissa Haizlip USA 99 min

2018

Before Oprah, before Arsenio, there was Mr. Soul! Ellis Haizlip ensures the Revolution will be televised, with “SOUL!,” America’s first “Black Tonight Show.” From 1968 to 1973, the public-television variety show SOUL!, guided by the enigmatic, openly gay producer and host Ellis Haizlip, offered an unfiltered, uncompromising celebration of Black literature, poetry, music, and politics—voices that had few other options for national exposure, and, as a result, found the program an improbable place to call home. 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 a bevy of great archival clips, Mr. Soul! captures a critical moment in culture whose impact continues to resonate.

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