In mentation there’s lone truthful overmuch to beryllium done with a personage biography, but erstwhile the taxable is Sidney Poitier, that’s an unusually target-rich environment. “Sidney,” a documentary from manager Reginald Hudlin produced by Oprah Winfrey, does the histrion justice, providing context, extent and sizeable warmth successful chronicling his singular beingness and trailblazing career.
Counting the actor’s widow, Joanna Shimkus Poitier, and girl Anika among its enforcement producers, the task is appropriately celebratory of Poitier’s accomplishments but maintains capable region to screen the much analyzable aspects of his story. It includes, for example, the crook against the histrion successful the precocious 1960s conveyed by a New York Times header that asked, “Why Does White America Love Sidney Poitier So?,” and his years-long extramarital matter with Diahann Carroll, giving an other furniture to their scorching chemistry successful a clip from “Paris Blues.”
Still, Poitier’s emergence from his humble beginnings successful the Bahamas, immigrating to Florida and past New York to go Hollywood’s archetypal Black starring man, requires small embellishment, and represents 1 of those uncommon biographies wherever a azygous not-quite-two-hour movie astir doesn’t consciousness similar enough.
Poitier stumbled into acting, wherever his striking looks and dignified mode allowed him to flight the pitfalls associated with those Black actors relegated to clownish oregon peripheral roles who preceded him. As Morgan Freeman puts it (just 1 of a who’s who of endowment enlisted to sermon him), Poitier “never played a subservient part,” turning down a movie helium objected to aboriginal successful his career, erstwhile helium could person utilized the wealth arsenic his woman was astir to person a baby.
Starting arsenic a young doc successful “No Way Out” successful 1950, Poitier headlined a drawstring of movies that peaked successful the ’60s, earning the Academy Award for “Lilies of the Field” and starring successful a drawstring of memorable films successful 1967: Best representation victor “In the Heat of the Night,” “To Sir, With Love” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”
In the archetypal film, it’s noted, Poitier pressed for a alteration successful which his character, detective Virgil Tibbs, slapped a White plantation proprietor backmost aft the antheral had struck him, a country considered shocking successful its time, with Louis Gossett Jr. recalling that infinitesimal arsenic “the loudest soundlessness I’ve ever heard successful a theater.”
Poitier died aboriginal this year, and he’s extensively interviewed, narrating his biographical worldly portion discussing things similar his narration with adjacent person Harry Belafonte, with whom helium was progressive successful the civil-rights movement. He besides acknowledges the criticisms of his characters during that epoch arsenic what came to beryllium called the “magic Negro” for White audiences, and however that impacted him.
“He was fixed large shoulders, but helium had to transportation a batch of weight,” says Denzel Washington. For his part, Robert Redford (who co-starred with Poitier successful “Sneakers”) notes that helium was “inspired by his activism.”
“Sidney” is understandably truthful affluent and dense successful worldly from the 1950s and ’60s that it’s astir blameworthy of racing done Poitier’s contributions successful the ‘70s and ‘80s, successfully transitioning to go a manager (primarily successful comedies, among them “Stir Crazy” and his trio of movies with Bill Cosby), helping make opportunities for Blacks down the camera.
Perhaps foremost, Hudlin (primarily a communicative filmmaker, whose forays into documentaries see “The Black Godfather”) beautifully conveys the toll exacted by being the archetypal Black starring man, and however Poitier served arsenic “a lighthouse,” arsenic Freeman says, for those who person followed successful his footsteps.
“Sidney” casts its ain warming glow, successful a mode that sheds airy not lone Poitier’s way but besides the decades successful which helium carved it out.
“Sidney” premieres September 23 successful prime theaters and connected Apple TV+. (Disclosure: My woman works for a portion of Apple.)