Sidney Poitier's documentary Sidney plays it safe, and that's just fine.
Updated: Dec 11, 2022
All Photos Courtesy of Apple TV
Director Reginald Hudlin collaborates with producer Oprah Winery to pay tribute to the legendary Sidney Poitier in Sidney from Apple TV. A revealing documentary that honors the legendary actor Sidney is a touching tribute to the trailblazer who passed away this past January.
Naturally, Jesse James Williams, who pens the documentary's screenplay, chose to focus on Poitier and his legacy as an iconic actor, filmmaker, and activist at the center of Hollywood and the Civil Rights Movement. In addition to featuring honest tidbits from the Poitier family, Sidney also features candid interviews with Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Robert Redford, Lenny Kravitz, Barbra Streisand, and Spike Lee.
Growing up as a child of the eighties, I recall seeing Mr. Poitier on screen for the first time at the age of seven. One weekend my parents rented Above The Law and the Poitier starring Shoot To Kill. I didn't know it then, but that film was Sidney Poitier's first acting role in eleven years, as he had spent the last few years focusing on directing. One scene in the movie that stood out to me was Poitier's confrontation with a bear. I found the scene humorous, but I remember my mom telling me if I wanted to see Poitier at his best, she had some movies for me to watch.
As I got older and developed a love of cinema, I would study the work of Poitier. Whether it was his work with Bill Cosby in their trilogy of seventies comedies or commanding respect as Mister Tibbs, Poitier laid out a foundation for black actors. Sidney opens with an excellent voice-over from the actor recanting about his birth and how he wasn't supposed to live. Hearing Poitier openly discuss this moment and other traumatic moments from his childhood is done with elegance.
The actor is a masterful storyteller and uses a calm demeanor to pull the viewer into these stories. Poitier legacy receives further validation over the run time as we hear Hollywood icons speak about him and want he means to them. One thing that surprised me in the documentary was learning about his friendship with Harry Belafonte. Due to Belafonte's current health issues, he doesn't make an appearance, but the archive footage of both men, particularly an appearance on the Dick Cavett show, makes up for that.
Additionally, I commend Hudlin for delving deep into Poitier's filmography, bringing some of his obscure films to light. One such film, 1957's Something Of Value, co-starred Rock Hudson, and another, The Lost Man, where Poitier met his second wife, Joanna Shimkus. A celebration of his sacrifice, dedication, talent, and heroism, this documentary is a kind-spirited reprove to the narrative accumulated around his career at the tail end of the sixties. If you weren't aware, Poitier was seen by some in the black community as a sellout. As Poitier spoke on this, I thought of one of his most famous quotes. The quote is, "You have to hold on to the dream that's inside yourself and know that if you're true to that, that's really all that matters."
While some typical warts and tropes plague Sidney, director Hudlin successfully pays homage to the actor.
Final Grade: A-
Sidney Premieres Globally On Apple TV+ tomorrow September 23, 2022