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September 6th • 7 pm
This screening of In the Heat of the Night kicks off this Reel Black series from SIFF and Langston—a four-part series exploring the life and legacy of Sidney Poitier, the man who made Hollywood history as a Black leading man during the civil rights movement.
Released in 1967, In the Heat of the Night tells the story of the unlikely and reluctant team-up between Virgil Tibbs (played by Poitier), a Philadelphia homicide detective, and the local police chief (Rod Steiger), as they solve the murder of a wealthy businessman in an extremely racist town in the deep South. Poitier’s character is far from appeasing or quietly tolerant, and we get to experience the catharsis of Tibbs slapping a rich white man right back after being slapped. Let me remind you this was released during the civil rights movement. It later went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture.
Poitier was selective of his roles. SIFF writes, “Sidney Poitier changed the course of history during a time when portrayals of Blackness on screen were told through a brutally racist lens. He stands as the doorway between the bug-eyed stereotypes of yore and the dignity, grace, and self-determination that we see in Black filmmaking today.”
There’s no denying how influential his work has been. If you’re interested in catching the whole series, SIFF’s got passes. Appreciate the icon, the beacon, and the trailblazer, Sidney Poitier, in all his glory.