Congratulations to Melissa Haizlip and her documentary “Mr. Soul!” for winning the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Writing in a Documentary (Television or Motion Picture), one of several categories in which the winner was announced prior to the ceremony’s telecast set to air on BET at 7pm CT on Saturday, March 27th.
The film was also nominated for Outstanding Documentary (Film) and is still nominated for Outstanding Breakthrough Creative (Motion Picture) at the 52nd NAACP Image Awards. The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is the largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the nation. They have over 2,200 units and branches across the nation, along with well over two million advocates. Their mission is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.
Other early winners announced on March 22nd include Dawn Porter’s “John Lewis: Good Trouble” (Outstanding Documentary—Film), Jason Hehir’s “The Last Dance” (Outstanding Documentary—Television or Motion Picture), Keith McQuirter’s “By Whatever Means Necessary: The Times of Godfather of Harlem” (Outstanding Directing in a Documentary—Television or Motion Picture), Walter Mosley’s The Awkward Black Man (Outstanding Literary Work—Fiction). Former President Barack Obama’s A Promised Land won Outstanding Literary Work—Nonfiction. You can find the full list of nominees and other early winners here.
The film “Mr Soul!” chronicles the legacy of “SOUL!”, the public television variety show produced and hosted by Ellis Haizlip (the director’s uncle) that turned a spotlight on the Black Arts Movement. Enhancing the picture are music composed by Grammy-winner Robert Glasper as well as narration from Blair Underwood, who also serves as one of the film’s executive producers. During a time period when African-Americans were not routinely featured prominently on television except in negative stereotypes, this program blazed new trails for representation during its run from 1968 through 1973.
In his four-star review of the film published on this site, our critic Glenn Kenny wrote that “the clips from the show—and seriously, can someone assemble the entire series and get it on streaming, or physical media somehow—reveal it as a phantasmagoria of Black excellence.” The film recently premiered nationwide on Independent Lens, PBS during Black History Month and is streaming on the PBS app.
“Making the film helped us illuminate the groundbreaking cultural work of the man behind one of the most successful and socially significant Black-produced television shows in US history,” said director Haizlip. “We’re beyond honored for the acknowledgements and excited about any nominations that will serve as a way of introducing the film, the music, and Ellis Haizlip to the world. ‘SOUL!’ is the greatest show you’ve never heard of. And up until now, Ellis Haizlip has been an unsung hero. We hope our film ‘Mr. SOUL!’ and the music it celebrates will help to change that.”
NOTE: Chaz Ebert is also an executive producer of the film.