CIFF Capsule Review: Mr. Soul!

In 1970 Gil-Scott Heron unleashed his seminal spoken-word piece “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” I find that ironic, because it’s exactly the kind of piece Elliot Haizlip would feature on his PBS show, Soul!, which premiered in 1968. The program was a revolution in its own way, as the only show broadcast widely that was made for and about black Americans.

Mr. Soul!, the new documentary made by Haizlip’s niece, Melissa Haizlip, takes a look at the show that first brought the idea of black excellence into homes across the country. Using archival footage and interviews with those who worked on the show as well as younger artists influenced by the program as kids, the film follows the five years Soul! Was on the air.

There are spots in the film where we take a step back to learn about Ellis Haizlip’s upbringing and life as a gay man finding his way in Mew York City. For the most part, though, the focus remains on the show, and it is an amazing story. The musical performances alone are worth checking out this film; Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, Patti LaBelle, The Staples Singers, and many more are featured throughout.

One of the interviewees during the film is Questlove. The music for the film is by Robert Glasper. These two artists are great proof that the statement Haizlip made to end the show’s run remains true: “Although it’s over, it’s not the end. Black seeds continue to grow.”