Sidney — documentary about Poitier is a gleaming salute to a game-changer

Six months earlier than Marilyn Monroe appeared alongside Tony Curtis in Some Like It Sizzling, Sidney Poitier co-starred in one other film with Curtis: The Defiant Ones, a landmark within the rise of the younger Bahamian-American. Now in the identical week as Marilyn Monroe is remembered in Blonde, the actor and director is the topic of Sidney. However the two tasks are starkly completely different: Reginald Hudlin’s movie is a fond and durable documentary whose sense of elegy is softened by having been made earlier than Poitier’s death in January.

The topic continues to be zestful on digicam. Celebration is the dominant temper. The movie even restores a giddy lustre to that downgraded foreign money, the Oscars. Turning into the primary black male to win Finest Actor for 1963’s Lilies of the Discipline, the victor was overcome by the sheer import of the second: “I received! I received!” he cried, returning to Nassau, the place he had lived as a toddler, for a road parade.

By this telling, the Bahamas stayed with Poitier lengthy after he conquered Hollywood. Hudlin frames the actor’s life as constructed on the rock of his dad and mom’ instance, accent remodeled however self-respect unshakeable. And but if that a lot feels easy, the movie offers head-on with the knots of trauma that additionally formed his profession: American racism skilled first-hand, the fraught contradictions that got here with altering a system from inside. That Poitier was for therefore lengthy the one black male lead in Hollywood — sit with that strain for a second — is a vexed matter deftly unpacked.

Hudlin’s largest success lies in all the time preserving two issues in play: a generally painful story of unfinished progress, and a gleaming, gleeful salute to a large.


In cinemas and on Apple TV Plus from September 23


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