EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Actor Blair Underwood lends his voice to "Mr. SOUL!", a new documentary produced and directed by former PBS host Ellis Haizlip's niece.
SOUL!, the groundbreaking series created by Haizlip, celebrated the rich diversity of Black culture and is explored in the new film with the help of Underwood's narration.
5 Things You Need to Know:
- The film chronicles the legacy of SOUL! during a time period when African-Americans normally weren't featured prominently on TV except in negative stereotypes. This program paved new trails for representation during its run from 1968 through 1973.
- It turned a spotlight on the Black Arts Movement represented by such timeless talents as Sidney Poitier, Gladys Knight, Alvin Ailey Dance Troupe, Maya Angelou, Al Green, Muhammad Ali, Cicely Tyson, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, Ashford and Simpson, Roberta Flack, Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, Billy Preston, The Delfonics, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Wilson Pickett, Kool and the Gang, and Patti Labelle.
- Mr. SOUL! won the following awards: Best Music Documentary at the IDA Documentary Awards, Best Feature Documentary at the Pan African Film & Arts Festival, Audience Award for Best Feature at the AFI DOCS Film Festival in Washington, D.C., Audience Award at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, and Meta Award at the Dallas Videofest/Docufest. It also made a splash at the BFI London Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival.
- Producer/director Melissa Haizlip said the show was "revolutionary to take a full accounting of Black culture and all its complexity in the arts, music, politics, drama, and created an opportunity. It was a undiluted show. It was pure unapologetic Black, and it was revolutionary."
- Underwood believes this story that took place almost 50 years ago resonates today. "Our country is convulsing," he said. "We are bringing in a new birth, a new understanding, or racial reconciliation and racial understanding."