Sidney Poitier, the review

The review by Sidney Poitier, the Apple TV + documentary that analyzes the career of the African American star in relation to the turbulent political and social changes in the United States, lingering a bit on his latest projects.

Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier poster

Sidney Poitier, a myth capable of changing an entire industry by itself, capable of representing by itself a revolutionary instance which, for the time, was truly innovative. At a young age, Sidney discovered acting, starting an ambitious career in Hollywood that went hand in hand with the social and political transformations of the United States. Winner of two Oscars and countless other awards, a documentary was dedicated to his memory, launched on Apple TV + on September 23, 2022. In our review by Sidney Poitier (in the original language simply Sidney), produced by Oprah Winfrey, we highlight the essentiality and composure of a work perfectly contextualized on a historical level, but which leaves aside some pieces of the private and artistic life of this timeless icon of the seventh art.

Heritage and values

Sidney Poitier 3

Sidney Poitier: a picture of the documentary

The film, directed by Reginald Hudlin (Safety, The Black Godfather) continues in the wake of the American filmmaker’s latest documentary works and celebrates a living myth of the film industry, putting himself on tiptoe to understand his inner self and indomitable spirit that they then made, over the years, one of the most influential Hollywood characters of the time. What appears extraordinary within the film is the deep and indissoluble link between the artist’s private life and his career, almost as if the latter represented only an extension of his experience on the screen. The documentary hits this point, building a first human and then artistic portrait of Sidney Poitier who, in this story of extraordinary successes and dark moments, is not the one and only protagonist. In fact, the choice to alternate the story of the Miami native star with other important testimonies such as those of Spike Lee, Oprah herself, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Halle Berry and many others who have seen in him an inspiration, a model , a spark capable of fueling their passion and fighting for their emancipation at the same time.

Sidney Poitier

A close-up of Sidney Poitier

Therefore, from a thematic point of view, the connection between the values ​​transmitted by parents in Poitier and the sharing of these foundations conveyed through acting, fits perfectly with the interventions of other celebrities who have represented the legacy of this legend in the moment in which she withdrew from the scene. It should also be underlined, at the writing level, how the script written by Jesse James Miller (I Am Alfred Hitchcock, Dangerous Rituals) weaves a subtle and functional link between the career of the Hollywood star and the social results that this represents for the African American community. The historical context is very important in the film and it is essential to understand some artistic choices of Sidney Poitier who has always measured and weighed his interpretations based on their political and cultural significance. An activist actor who fought openly all the turbulence of the Sixties and Seventies and who, already in full McCarthyism, did not compromise.

Sidney Poitier: the best films of the extraordinary American actor

Some inevitable compromises

Sidney Poitier 1

Sidney Poitier: an image

Having said that, on a structural level, Sidney Poitier has a very classic approach, showing on the one hand recent interviews with the artist and other celebrities and on the other enhancing films of the time and emphasizing in particular their socio-cultural importance. The most successful aspect, from this point of view, is the management of the extracts of feature films in which Poitier starred or which he directed or produced. In a celebratory title like this one would expect that the works of this character swallow up everything else, on the contrary, instead, they are placed in perfect balance and are not at all intrusive, giving the public the opportunity to recover these films of the which are shown only salient scenes or preparatory to the content of the documentary. We come, however, to a small discordant note that concerns the story of Sidney Poitier’s career.

Sidney Poitier: the protagonist of Guess who’s coming to dinner has died at the age of 94?

Sidney Poitier in The Lilies of the Field

Sidney Poitier in The Lilies of the Field

Within the film, of course, more weight is given to the works that have made the star a timeless myth as White man, you will live! (1950), The Seed of Violence (1955), The Mud Wall (1958), A Bunch of Sun (1961), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (1967) and many others, but unfortunately the latest projects that have seen the actor at the center end up in oblivion, obviously for lack of minutes and space, but it is a pity that even Poitier’s avenue of the sunset is not properly remembered . Similarly, the balance of the feature film hangs on the acting career of the film icon, relegating his equally important role as director and producer to almost the last half hour on about 1.5 hours of final editing. more secondary than the rest, it still has its own value, especially as it strengthens its position within the Hollywood film industry. Consequence of these shortcomings, which are however an inevitable compromise considering the endless artistic life of Sidney Poitier, is that the whole last part of the project is too accelerated and this collides with the approach used mostly in the film, which instead is more staid, taking time out for every salient event from the celebrity’s existence.

Conclusions

Our review by Sidney Poitier highlights how it is possible to represent such an extraordinary life with humanity and respect, analyzing the historical context of reference and showing us the legacy that this Hollywood legend has sown over time. With a writing that maintains a constant connection between cinema and socio-cultural changes and a direction that enhances the character, but also the important presentations, the documentary unfortunately leaves the last years of Poitier’s acting career in the shade, giving little space to his role of producer and director.

Because we like it

  • The analysis of the historical and socio-cultural context
  • Attention to the legacy that Sidney Poitier left for generations to come.
  • The balance between interventions, clips of feature films and films of the time.

What’s wrong

  • Little space for the last years of the star’s career and his role as producer and director.
  • A rhythm that in the last part accelerates abruptly.

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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