Sidney Movie Review and Movie Summary (2022)

The Doctor is at his best in his exploration of Poitier’s decades-long friendship with Harry Belafonte. The two met while working in the theater together, with Poitier getting his big break while filling in for Belafonte one night when he was called in for a last-minute shift at his day job. Hudlin does an excellent job of chronicling their friendship through the early days in the theater to their political work for civil rights in the 1960s to their collaboration together in Poitier’s directorial debut “Buck and the Preacher” in 1972. Archive clips of the two on talk shows just like “Dick Cavett Show” allows their deep admiration — and playful rivalry — to shine through even decades later.

Poitier’s influence as a director is briefly examined in contrast to the Blaxploitation era films of the same time. Barbra Streisand explains why she, Poitier and Newman created the production company First Artists to have more control over their projects. Not only did Poitier shine as a director of comedies, he also made sure that those working behind the scenes in his productions were mostly black. But again the doctor fails to explore the more complicated aspects of Poitier’s directorial production. Namely the many films he directed starring Bill Cosby.

“It’s hard when you carry other people’s dreams,” Poitier told Oprah at her 42nd birthday party. Herein lies the challenge of telling the story of a man like Poitier. Are you printing the legend or delving deeper into the mistakes? It’s a balancing act for sure, and one that Hudlin doesn’t quite manage.

“Sidney” serves more as an explanation of Why Sidney Poitier remains as important a figure in American history—not just Hollywood history—than it does as a warts-and-all biography of Sidney the man. It may be too soon for the kind of documentary about Poitier, whose impact looms large over a Hollywood that still lacks the possibilities he envisioned some 50 years ago.

This review is submitted from the Toronto International Film Festival. “Sidney” will premiere in select theaters and on Apple TV+ on September 23.

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