MOVIES ABOUT TV SHOWS AT A FILM FESTIVAL
(One more twist: I’m pretty sure you’ll see them both on television.)
The public television variety series Soul!, which debuted in 1968, came at a time when black voices were basically absent from national media, so it broke ground on an almost weekly basis. Melissa Haizlip and Samuel D. Pollard’s film is simultaneously a history of the show and a biography of its creator/producer/co-host, Ellis Haizlip. and the performance clips (with Al Green, Stevie Wonder, The Delfonics, Earth Wind & Fire, and many more) are spellbinding. But Haizlip also put the national television spotlight on serious black poets (Amiri Baraka, the Lost Poets, Nikki Giovanni), black theater and dance companies, and political figures whose messages still resonate. Soul! only lasted five years, and by the end of this thorough and intoxicating documentary, it’s clear what a loss its cancellation was. But its powerful closing montage also draws the line to the images of black excellence that followed, and that dominate our culture to this day.
Freaks & Geeks: The Documentary
It’s not the most imaginative title, but nonetheless, this valentine to the short-lived and wildly influential 1999-2000 NBC dramedy is a lovely piece of work, assembling terrific clips and wonderful old behind-the-scenes video, and gathering pretty much everyone you’d want to hear from (and a few you might not expect – dig Styx’s Dennis DeYoung, dropping knowledge). It’s a welcome walk down memory lane, and also an informative post-mortem on the show’s failure: how it was a victim of that particular moment in the business of television, how its makers took its cancellation personally, and what they did with that frustration. And the show was exactly big and long enough to get this kind of treatment without skipping anything too important. Affectionate and refreshingly stylish; fans are going to eat it up.