Today in film history, September 26, 1997, “Soul Food” opened in USA theaters. Produced by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Tracey Edmonds and Robert Teitel, and released by Fox 2000 Pictures, the film was effectively George Tillman, Jr.’s break-out film (he wrote and directed it) – his major Hollywood studio debut, with a story that he based on his own family.
Featuring an ensemble cast, the film stars Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox, Nia Long, Michael Beach, Mekhi Phifer, Jeffrey D. Sams, Irma P. Hall, Gina Ravera, and Brandon Hammond, and centers on the trials of an extended African American family, held together by longstanding family traditions which begin to fade as serious problems take center stage.
And let’s not forget about the film’s soundtrack, which was released through LaFace Records and mainly consisted of R&B and hip hop tracks. The soundtrack was a huge success, peaking at #4 on the Billboard 200, #1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and was certified 2x Multi-Platinum on February 17, 1998. Four singles made to the Billboard Hot 100. The soundtrack was also noted for the quartet group Milestone, consisting of K-Ci & JoJo and Babyface’s brothers, Kevon and Melvin Edmonds, who all came together only once for their single and an appearance in the movie.
The sequel is set up at 20th Century Fox subsidiary Fox 2000, with George Tillman Jr, also producing via his State Street Pictures, along with Tracey Edmonds and Babyface Edmonds returning. It will follow the next generation of the family “in the age of cell phones and social media” as the once-close unit finds its members even more disconnected, struggling to learn the importance of family and tradition.
The original film was made for just under $8 million and went on to gross over $43 million domestically. It was well received by critics and audiences alike, earning an 80% rating via movie review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.
The Showtime TV series that followed ran for 5 seasons, becoming one of the longest running hour-long dramas with a predominantly black cast in the history of prime-time TV in the USA.
Check out a trailer for the original film below: