An Executive Producer Recommends Three Films to Watch for Black History Month: Passing, A Most Beautiful Thing and Mr. Soul! | Chaz’s Journal

Director Mary Mazzio found support among lawmakers in Congress where she proposed that poverty should be treated as a health crisis and that systemic racism can be addressed at its roots by redressing structural inequities. “A Most Beautiful Thing” is a film about the ups and downs of life in the city. About the hopes and dreams of its inhabitants. About addiction and recovery, about family and community. And about a brighter path being forged from sheer hard work and discipline. In his SXSW review of the film, managing editor Brian Tallerico wrote, “Mazzio’s approach reminded me of Steve James, another filmmaker whose undeniable empathy comes through in every frame.” Among its numerous honors, the film was nominated for for a Critics’ Choice Award, an NAACP Image Award and for Best Documentary by the Foreign Press Academy. It currently has a 100% approval rating with both critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Last but certainly not least is Melissa Haizlip‘s “Mr. Soul!,” an illuminating look at “SOUL!”, the public television variety show produced and hosted by the director’s uncle, Ellis Haizlip, that turned a spotlight on the Black Arts Movement. 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’s director, Melissa Haizlip, is a dynamic emerging filmmaker who has earned much praise for her film, including the Critics’ Choice Award for Best First Documentary Feature, Best Music Documentary at the IDA Documentary Awards, the Best Feature Documentary at the Pan African Film & Arts Festival, the Audience Award for Best Feature at the AFI DOCS Film Festival in Washington, D.C., the Audience Award at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, the Meta Award at the Dallas Videofest/Docufest and made a splash at the BFI London Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival. 

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