October 5, 2022

‘Sidney’ review: An Oprah Winfrey-produced Apple TV+ documentary does justice to Sidney Poitier’s remarkable life and career

3 min read

Counting the actor’s widow, Joanna Schmucks Poitier, and daughter Annika as its executive producers, the project appropriately celebrates Poitier’s achievements but takes enough distance to cover the more complex aspects of his story. keeps In this, for example, the turn against the actor in the late 1960s was informed by a New York Times headline that asked, “Why Does White America Love Sidney Poitier?” And her years-long extramarital affair with Dehan Carroll, an extra layer to their sizzling chemistry in a clip from “Paris Blues.”

Still, Poitier’s rise from humble beginnings in the Bahamas, to Florida and then to New York to become Hollywood’s first black leader, needs little embellishment, and represents one of those rare biographies. is where a film of almost two hours is not made. Doesn’t feel like enough.

Poitier stumbled into acting, where his flamboyance and dignified manner allowed him to avoid the pitfalls associated with black actors who had previously been cast in clown or peripheral roles. As Morgan Freeman has said (one of the only talent enlisted to discuss it), Poitier “never played a supporting role”, ruling out a film that Which he objected to earlier in his career, when he could use the money on his own. The wife was about to give birth.

Beginning as a young doctor in 1950’s “No Way Out,” Poitier went on to headline a string of films that peaked in the ’60s, winning an Academy Award for “Lilies of the Field” and in 1967 Starred in memorable films: Best Picture winner “In the Heat of the Night,” “To Sir, With Love” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”

In the first film, it has been noted, Poitier pushed for a change in which his character, detective Virgil Tibbs, slaps a white plantation owner after the man kills him, a scene that shocked its time. Considered a giver, Louis Gossett Jr. missed him. moment as “the loudest silence I’ve ever heard in a theater.”

Poitier Died earlier this year, and he has interviewed extensively, describing his autobiographical material and discussing things like his relationship with his close friend Harry Belafonte, with whom he was active in the civil rights movement. He also acknowledges the criticisms of his characters during this period, which were called “magical negroes” for white audiences, and the effect this had on him.

“He was given big shoulders, but he had to carry a lot of weight,” says Denzel Washington. For his part, Robert Redford (who starred alongside Poitier in “Sneakers”) notes that he was “inspired by his activism.”

“Sydney” is so rich and dense with material from the 1950s and ’60s that it’s almost guilty of racing through Poitier’s contributions in the ’70s and ’80s, transitioning successfully to director (primary In comedy, among them “Star Crazy” and his trio of films with Bill Cosby, he helped create opportunities for blacks behind the camera.

Perhaps most importantly, Hudlin (primarily a narrative filmmaker, whose documentaries include “The Black Godfather”) beautifully conveys the tools he’s gained from being a black leader before, and how. Poitier served as “a lighthouse,” as Freeman puts it, for these people. Those who followed in his footsteps

“Sidney” pours its warm glow in a way that illuminates not only Poitier’s path but also the decades in which he made it.

“Sidney” premieres on September 23 in select theaters and on Apple TV+. (Disclosure: My wife works for a unit of Apple.)

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