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Mr. SOUL!

  • Melissa Haizlip
    Director
  • Melissa Haizlip
    Writer
  • Melissa Haizlip
    Producer
  • Doug Blush
    Producer
    Twenty Feet From Stardom, Icarus, Period. End of Sentence
  • Blair Underwood
    Key Cast
    "Narrator"
    Quantico
  • Questlove
    Key Cast
    "self"
    The Tonight Show
  • Harry Belafonte
    Key Cast
    "Self"
    Sing Your Song
  • Kathleen Cleaver
    Key Cast
    "Self"
    The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
  • Nikki Giovanni
    Key Cast
    "Self"
  • Amiri Baraka
    Key Cast
    "Self"
  • Carmen DeLavallade
    Key Cast
    "Self"
  • Sonia Sanchez
    Key Cast
    "Self"
  • Project Type:
    Documentary
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 55 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    April 22, 2018
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    Yes
  • Student Project:
    No
  • Tribeca Film Festival
    NEW YORK
    United States
    April 22, 2018
    North American Premiere
  • AFI DOCS
    Washington
    United States
    June 16, 2018
    Mid-Atlantic Premiere
    Best Documentary - Audience Award
Director Biography - Melissa Haizlip

MELISSA HAIZLIP is an award-winning filmmaker born in Boston and raised in the US Virgin Islands, Connecticut and New York. Melissa is a 2016 Flaherty Fellow, the 2016 Artist in Residence at the Black Public Media, and participated in the 2015 NALIP ARC Diverse Women In Media Residency. She is a Chaz and Roger Ebert Producing Fellow, and an alumnus of Film Independent’s Project: Involve, Firelight Media Documentary Lab, and the PGA Diversity Workshop. Melissa attended Yale University. She produced YOU’RE DEAD TO ME (2013) directed by Wu Tsang, about a grieving Chicana mother coming to terms with the loss of her transgender child on Día de los Muertos. The film won the 2014 Imagen Award for Best Short, and has screened at over 50 festivals and museums.

Melissa’s feature documentary, Mr. SOUL!, won the International Documentary Association 2018 IDA Doc Award for Best Music Documentary. An IFP Spotlight on Documentaries alum. Mr. SOUL! premiered at Tribeca 2018, followed by HOT DOCS, British Film Institute, and AFI DOCS at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Oprah Winfrey Theatre, where it won the Audience Award for Best Feature. Mr. SOUL! screened at 50 festivals, receiving 16 Jury and the Audience Awards for Best Documentary, including the 2019 FOCAL Award for Best Use of Archival Footage in an Entertainment Production.

Melissa’s two-channel art films have been funded and exhibited by the Hammer Museum’s Los Angeles Biennial, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and Clifton Benevento Gallery, SoHo, NY. Melissa has received a JustFilms grant from the Ford Foundation, Media Projects Production Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, IDA’s Pare Lorentz Grant, plus awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Black Public Media, Firelight Media, ITVS, Awesome Without Borders, and support from ARC NALIP Diverse Women in Media Fellowship. She has served on application review panels for the NEH. She recently directed and produced CONTACT HIGH: A VISUAL HISTORY OF HIP-HOP for the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles.

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Director Statement

Our stories matter now more than ever. In the midst of a Trump administration, it's time to shine a light on the dark spaces, as we see the kernels of a new age of moral panics seeding and normalizing. As administration choices indicate a disregard for the equal protection of all citizens, we can't allow them to lend false legitimacy to groups with racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic and misogynistic views. Free expression is threatened. Our film champions this theme, while exploring how far we’ve come vs. how far we have yet to go in the struggle to achieve fairness, representation and inclusion. Because if our democracy and free expression are threatened, then we are all threatened.

2018 marked the 50th anniversary of SOUL!, which began in 1968. It’s time to revisit and explore themes tackled 50 years ago, which are still relevant today: diversity, inclusion, equality, gender parity, black and cultural identity, women’s rights, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and visual literacy. Today, in the time of #MeToo, #TimesUp and #BlackLivesMatter, issues of diversity and fairness in media representation prove Mr. SOUL! is timely.

At the heart of this project is the importance of public television and media as a tool for freedom of expression and cultural change. This project has the potential to indict the racial and cultural homogeneity of our contemporary mass media. The goal is to reach an audience that is not currently being served by public television, and bridge the history gap for our African American youth.

The educational impact will be valuable to all races, young and old alike. We anticipate the film will have great relevance as an educational tool in universities and college libraries, and could be used in the syllabi of college courses ranging from Media Studies, to African American Studies, to American History.