One of the most anticipated films at AFI DOCS 2018 is Melissa Haizlip's documentary, “Mr. SOUL!”, which will screen to a sold-out audience on the evening of Saturday, June 16th, in Washington DC at the Smithsonian Museum of African American History in the Oprah Winfrey Theater. Haizlip is an emerging filmmaker who has earned many accolades for her short films, including the Chaz and Roger Ebert Producing Fellowship at the Film Independent Spirit Awards. With “Mr. SOUL!”, her directorial full length feature debut, she celebrates the legacy of her uncle, Ellis Haizlip, the trailblazing producer and host of “SOUL!”, a series renowned for being the first black “Tonight Show.”
It’s fitting that “Mr. SOUL!” will be screening in the Oprah Winfrey Theatre on Saturday, since Oprah is one of many cultural icons whose career owes a debt to the barriers broken by Ellis. While African-Americans were not routinely featured prominently on television except in negative stereotypes, “SOUL!” turned a spotlight on the Black Arts Movement represented by such timeless talents as Sidney Poitier, Gladys Knight, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin and many others. Blair Underwood serves as the film’s narrator. “Mr. SOUL!” already earned the Audience Award at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, made a splash at the Tribeca Film Festival and is sure to enlighten many a festivalgoer this weekend.
Another selection screening this year at AFI DOCS is Rory Kennedy’s “Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow,” a film centering on the people who have devoted their lives to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It premieres tonight at 7pm at the National Air and Space Museum, and promises to affirm the importance of science in our universe today. Kennedy’s prolific career as a documentarian recently earned her an Oscar nomination for 2014’s “Last Days in Vietnam.”
AFI Docs fest is a premiere film festival in America devoted to connecting film audiences with national opinion leaders, filmmakers and intriguing film subjects.