When Barack Obama presented Sidney Poitier with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, he noted: “It is said that Sidney Poitier doesn’t make movies, he creates milestones. Milestones of artistic excellence, milestones of American progress.”
His is not exaggerated. Poitier, who died in January at the age of 94, had a real career measured by milestones. First Black Man Nominated for Best Actor Oscar (The Defiant Ones, 1958). First black person to win it (Lilies of the Fields, 1963).
The first black man to be named the world’s top box-office draw (1967). First black director to hit $100 million, 1980 comedy Crazy stirring.
There’s one more important person first: Virgil Tibbs, the Philadelphia detective played by Poitier In the heat of the night, became the first black film character to slap a racist white character in the face, in retaliation for being slapped first.
In Reginald Hudlin’s warm and captivating documentary Sidney (Apple TV+). either buffoons with buggy and lazy eyes, or grotesque, there to tone down the comical humor.
But by the early 70s, the landmarks had become like the stones around Poitier’s neck. Movies like Super flying and Axis, featuring Richard Roundtree as a tough, super cold individual eye who doesn’t wait to be slapped by a white man before slapping back, suddenly making Poitier seem passive and even passive.
Leading black culture figures accused him of selling out by making movies like Guess who will come to join me and To you, with love to please a white audience by reflecting of them idea of what a black man should be: a virtual saint, dignified, respectful, sacrificial, and safe for whites to trust, embrace – even permit marriage to his daughter surname.
The most malicious critics have labeled him “Uncle Tom”, and besides that is much worse.
In a year 1967 New York Times Clifford Mason writes, “In all of these movies, he is the referent, who is given a clean vest and is completely pure in motive so that, like an abused puppy, he He has all the sympathy on his part. “
The criticism hurt Poitier deeply, Guess who will come to join me co-star Katharine Houghton. When the documentary does a good job of proving it, it’s cruel and poignant, deeply unfair.
Poitier broke down racial barriers before the civil rights movement had fully regrouped. During the 50s and 60s he worked hard, often in tandem with his best friend Harry Belafonte, now 95 years old and appearing only in archival interviews, for reasons, sometimes at great personal risk.
For the best part of two decades, he was the only black A-list movie star around, and the embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of young black people hoping to make a career in acting. export. Oprah Winfrey calls him “a racial soldier who leads an army for others”.
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Denzel Washington said: “He was given a big shoulder, but he had to carry a lot of weight.
The gallery of contributors, including Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand, Lulu, Poitier’s widow Joanna Shimkus, first wife Juanita Hardy and his daughters from both marriages, is excellent, as well. as archival footage.
But the real jewel in the documentary’s crown is Poitier himself, interviewed shortly before his death, his soaring voice still intact.
He is a great storyteller, looking straight into the camera as he describes growing up on Cat Island in the Bahamas, his surprise the first time he saw a car and a car. mirror in Nassau, and the move to Miami, where he got his first taste of Racist Police and the Ku Klux Klan.
There are some odd omissions. He tells of a long-running affair with Diahann Carroll that ended his first marriage, but never touches on the pain it must have caused his wife and children.
The popular comedies he directed were only skimmed – although the fact that some of them starred Bill Cosby may have been a factor.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/television/tv-reviews/sidney-apple-tv-poitier-documentary-delves-into-a-life-that-was-dotted-with-firsts-42015927.html Sidney: Apple TV + Poitier documentary delves into a life littered with firsts