Event description

ELLIS HAIZLIP, the Producer of the WNET/PBS weekly television show, “SOUL.”
Set interview with Toni Morrison. 1972

On Oct 6, 2018, from 5:25 pm-7:30 pm, Reel Sisters is proud to announce a feature screening and conversation of Mr. Soul! directed by Melissa Haizlip and Sam Pollard! Before Oprah – before Arsenio – there was Mr. SOUL! Ellis Haizlip makes television broadcast history with SOUL!, America’s first “black Tonight Show.” Join Reel Sisters for an exciting evening honoring the legacy of one of America’s first openly gay talk show hosts to celebrate Black pride, culture and art. Join us for an exclusive post screening Q & A with directors Melissa Haizlip and Sam Pollard! Tickets:$15 (Discounts for seniors, students and groups). Students are encouraged to attend. Photo Credit: Chester Higgins.

The screening will be held at Miller Theatre, 2960 Broadway on the campus of Columbia University. #1 train stops in front of theater and the venue is wheelchair accessible.

REEL SISTERS is the FIRST ACADEMY QUALIFYING FILM FESTIVAL for narrative shorts devoted to women of color.


Right on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement, one fearless black pioneer reconceived a Harlem Renaissance for a new era, ushering giants and rising stars of Black American culture onto the national television stage. He was hip. He was smart. He was innovative, political and gay. In his personal fight for social equality, this man ensured the revolution would be televised.

The man was Ellis Haizlip. The Revolution was SOUL! – an amazing weekly television show that aired on public television. From 1968 to 1973, the public-television variety show SOUL!, guided by the enigmatic 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.

  1. SOUL!, the documentary feature film produced, written and directed by Melissa Haizlip, celebrates the groundbreaking PBS series from its genesis to its eventual loss of funding against the backdrop of a swiftly changing political and social landscape, while profiling Ellis Haizlip, the charismatic man behind one of the most culturally significant and successful television shows in U.S. history.

Haizlip was the host and executive producer of SOUL!, the first “black Tonight Show.” In 1968, SOUL! was launched as a local, New York broadcast. In 1969 the series rolled out nationwide on PBS, on WNET Channel 13. By 1973, Haizlip had produced over 130 hour-long shows featuring a dazzling array of A-list guests featuring rare live performances and interviews from the legendary Al Green, heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, Sidney Poitier, Cicely Tyson, James Baldwin, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, Ashford and Simpson, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Billy Preston, Black Ivory, The Delfonics, Bill Withers, Nikki Giovanni, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Sonia Sanchez, The Last Poets, Wilson Pickett, Odetta, Merry Clayton, Mandrill, Kool and the Gang, Toni Morrison, Kathleen Cleaver, Betty Shabazz, Stokely Carmichael, Rev. Louis Farrakhan, Mrs. George Jackson, George Faison, Patti Labelle and many more.


MELISSA HAIZLIP (Producer/ Director/ Writer) was born in Boston and raised in NY, CT, and the US Virgin Islands. She attended Yale University, enjoyed a career on Broadway found her way into filmmaking after working in development at AFI. Melissa wrote, directed and produced Mr. SOUL!, which had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at AFI DOCS and the HBO Jury Award for Best Documentary at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival. Melissa produced the award-winning narrative LGBTQ short YOU’RE DEAD TO ME directed by Wu Tsang, which premiered on the PBS Online Film Festival after opening at Outfest 2013. The film won the 2013 Imagen Award for Best Short, the 2014 Best Short Award at Reel Sisters, and played over 75 festivals worldwide. Melissa also produced several art films and installations for director Wu Tsang including A DAY IN THE LIFE OF BLISS, recently acquired by MoMA for their permanent collection.

SAM POLLARD (Co-Director) is a Peabody and Emmy-Award winning, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker. His work spans nearly 30 years. He edited Sinatra: All or Nothing At All, many Spike Lee films, including Four Little Girls, When the Levees Broke, If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise; and produced/directed MAYNARD, SAMMY DAVIS, JR.: I’VE GOTTA BE ME, TWO TRAINS RUNNIN’, ACORN AND THE FIRESTORM, THE TALK: RACE IN AMERICA, Henry Hampton’s EYES ON THE PRIZE II: AMERICA AT THE RACIAL CROSSROADS, for which he received an Emmy Award, Hampton’s series, I’LL MAKE ME A WORLD: STORIES OF AFRICAN AMERICAN ARTISTS AND COMMUNITY, and for PBS, SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME and AUGUST WILSON: THE GROUND ON WHICH I STAND. Sam was nominated for a 2018 Grammy Award for TWO TRAINS RUNNIN’.